Ever imagined a career that evolves into an adventure? This week we go into rural and remote nursing with Benjamin – a snap-happy RN 8+ who pivoted from journalism to nursing isolated communities in Far North Queensland, and a nurse who has used nursing as a passport to travel the world.
Ben, tell us your story! Why did you choose nursing?
To be completely honest, I never even thought about being a nurse. I started off studying public relations and journalism. I didn’t like it and one of my best friends was doing paramedicine, I thought “that seems pretty cool, I’ll give nursing a go. 9 years later, here I am, still nursing!”
I started work as a Nurse in Melbourne in 2014, I went travelling in 2015 and since then I have lived and worked in the USA, Canada and soon the Falkland Islands. I have travelled extensively through Asia, Australia, North and South America. Nursing has enabled me to do all of this. I have worked all over the Northern Territory in ED and in remote aboriginal communities.
Currently I am in Cape York in Queensland working in a remote Aboriginal community. Working in these remote communities with indigenous people is rewarding, challenging and unlike anything else you will do, it’s a culture shock, wildly different and incredibly dynamic.
When and where did you do nursing training?
I did my nursing training in Geelong at Deakin university. My placements were between Barwon Health, the St John of God Private Hospital, Weribee Mercy Hospital and Mental Health Outreach Team.
What specialty did you start your career in? Did that change? If so, why? Was the change for the best?
I started in the Day Procedure Unit and Coronary Care, then to Emergency and then to Rural and Remote nursing. All of the specialties I worked in have contributed to the skills I have today. Being able to see a patient’s journey from entrance via an ED to their discharge from a ward or CCU is a humbling experience. It gives you an appreciation for the amount of work that each team puts in and allows you to better explain to the patient what comes before or what might come next.
What is a common myth about Rural and Remote community nursing?
That primary care nurses just do dressings and dispense medication. In remote, you really need to know a bit of everything. If you don’t; know where you can find quality information. You’d be lucky to have a visiting doctor 4-5 days a fortnight and even less in some small places and you’re often dealing with one of the sickest demographics in the country.
Tell us about your most memorable patient?
I had a patient who had anterior STEMI (ST-elevation myocardial infarction) in a remote indigenous community in Central Australia at 3:00 am. We worked for around 3-4 hours with him in the Clinic and he had a great outcome. Turned out this man was my neighbour in the community, and he pulled me aside a few days after he got back from Alice Springs and said, “thanks for saving my life”. It really didn’t feel like I did anything other than my job, but the way he perceived it gave me a real sense of pride that I was able to help the local community in which I lived.
Your advice to new nurses?
Appreciate the small moments.
What do you like most about your nursing job?
Getting paid to talk to people is the best. We work really hard 99% of the time but it’s great sometimes to just take a moment and appreciate that you can have a chat to a diverse range of people in their moment of vulnerability and help distract them from the adversity they’re facing today.
What do you like least about your nursing job?
Shift work. I hate shift work. I think late early’s should be banned and nobody should get sick at night so that we don’t have to do night shifts. Obviously the second one isn’t likely but honestly, why do late early shifts exist? Give me a week of lates and a week of morning’s over those horrific sleepless shifts anytime.
If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?
Being someone who valued life.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
At work? When I was younger working in recovery I was told I was REALLY good-looking for about 20 minutes by a patient who was waking up from anaesthetic. Until, to her horror, she started to straighten up and realise what she had been saying.
Top career tips for nurses aspiring to go Rural and Remote?
- Consolidate your skills in a tertiary centre
- Get experience in Emergency or critical care
- Sign up for a post-grad certificate
- Look for experiences and be open to moving cities, states or even countries
- Never stop learning and self-educating.
- Always act within your scope of practice.
- If you don’t know, ask.
You’re afforded a large scope of practice in Rural and Remote with very little oversight so it’s tempting to ignore the process and work outside this to save time. However, its simply unsafe and dangerous.
Ask why and then ask it again.
Being analytical and thorough is really important alongside critical thinking. Don’t just tick the box, question’ why’? What does it mean? And what could be driving these physiological or mental changes? Or what do these results mean?
There’s a wealth of information out there to answer these questions, you just need the drive to ask them in the first place.
What is your side hustle / other job / passion outside of nursing / life like outside of nursing …?
I love photography. My sister and I are starting up our own business! Find us on Instagram @bjj_photgraph.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your nursing job?
Delivering compassion when I am exhausted. It’s so important but I think the shift work, extra hours, overtime and general exhausting nature of the job means that it’s sometimes a deep dive to find that compassion. Use this as a warning sign to take a break, whether that means sometime between contracts, no more overtime, or no more on-call.
Quick 10 with Ben
Q: How do you de-stress from the juggle of everything you do?
A: I travel, I run, I do yoga, I surf, I read, and I take time off, often.
Q: If you could go back and give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Don’t waste your time partying. There are infinitely better things to do.
Q: What underrated tool(s) are indispensable for your job?
A: A stethoscope
Q: If you could change one thing in nursing, what would it be?
A: There is 2: 1) Ban Late Early’s and 2) increase nurses’ pay.
Finish this sentence: If I could start over again, I would …
… take a year off before going to university.
Who or what keeps you motivated?
Discipline, appreciation for each day.
What’s the best place you have ever worked (even if it was for just one shift)?
Minyerri Health Clinic, nice people, stunning countryside.
What’s the single most important trait you think a nurse should have?
And what’s one lesson your job has taught you that you think everyone should learn at some point in their life?
Because you never know when your time is up, don’t spend your life working and planning for the retirement that might never come. Live now
What’s the quote you live by?
“I hated every minute of training, but I thought, suffer now, and live the rest of your life a champion” Muhammed Ali
Inspired by Ben to go Rural and Remote? Click here to see what term contracts we have at uPaged this week!
Want to share your nursing stories? Reach out to hello@uPaged for more information on how you get published and paid (cha-ching).