Behind the Scrubs: the journey from RN to CNE

November 7, 2023

;Welcome to  “Behind the Scrubs”  where we follow the journey of one of our uPaged nurses as they share their stories, experience and wisdom

Have you ever had a moment that changed your life forever? Say hello to the nurse who sought out a career in nursing after being inspired by the incredible care her Dad received while he was battling cancer. This week features Kim T, a superstar Mum, RN8+, and now CNE, who never gave up on her nursing dream. 

Kim T, tell us your story! Why did you choose nursing? 

I chose to become a nurse when I was in year 7. This was a while ago now!

My dad had been diagnosed with bowel cancer and had undergone a major bowel resection. I remember visiting the hospital when a stoma nurse named Helen came in. She bought a cut bike tire over her shoulder and described to me what had happened in surgery. I was in awe of how much she knew about the human body and how amazing she was, and I knew at that moment I wanted to be a nurse.

Throughout school I was definitely not a Grade A student, my grades caused a lot of arguments with my parents and there was some healthy bribing for good grades. I received a letter in the mail stating that I had been accepted into a Bachelor of Nursing and just like that I became a university student.

Tell us about your placements

I had good and bad marks but I tried hard. I travelled far and wide for my placements including Sydney and Broken Hill. A fantastic experience, I nursed babies born at 26 weeks all the way up to a 108-year-old lady.

What happened next? 

I didn’t get offered a new grad position and I was devastated. That was it. I had done all that training and I hadn’t even got a job and had no idea what I was going to do. When working as an AIN and discussing the devastation of not getting a new grad to my care manager, on the spot, she offered me a position as a full-time RN for the following year. ‘Ahhhh, pardon?!’.  

The move into Aged Care nursing

In 2015, I started working as an RN in an aged care facility. What a job! I had the most fantastic time working in aged care. Mid 2016, I started to want more clinical knowledge, I wanted more everything. I was told at University that no one would take me on because I never had a new grad but I landed a job instantly in the local private hospital. A brand-new hospital, with fantastic staff and a whole lot of clinical knowledge.

After 18 months, I wanted to experience the public sector. I started in ED wearing a white shirt because my uniform hadn’t come in yet and I felt like a complete tosser but I soon fitted in. Working in ED opened my eyes to the incredible happiness and sadness that is happening around the world each day. I was a part of exciting moments to incomprehensible sadness. 

I fell pregnant with my first son in 2020, right as COVID was taking off.  The entire department changed because of COVID and being pregnant in head to toe PPE was challenging at the least. I started to lose focus, I didn’t want to be there anymore. I went on maternity leave and ended up falling pregnant again rather quickly after my first son. The shift work wasn’t accommodating to my family life and I needed a change. I applied for a CNE position and have found it enjoyable so far. Education is ever changing and although I’m helping others learn. I’m learning so much as well.

When and where did you do nursing training?

University of Wollongong

What speciality did you start your career in? Did that change? If so, why? Was the change for the best?

I started in aged care and have since worked in the private and public sectors. When starting out, I really wanted to do paediatric oncology, but now looking back, I don’t think that area is for me, especially now having two little children. I have loved all nursing and there isn’t a particular specialty that sticks out to me, I find it all interesting and every area has pros and cons.

What is a common myth about nursing?

‘Nurses are mainly women’ – Untrue. I have met and worked with some fantastic male nurses. Nursing isn’t gender specific. If you’re thinking you’d like to be a nurse… GO FOR IT.

Which has been your best nursing job ever, and why?

I loved my time in Emergency, there was always something happening! In ED you are part of a team who experience unimaginable things and yet, still turn up each and every day and work their behinds off. I would recommend anyone doing nursing to spend some time in your local ED, there is always plenty of overtime! 

Tell us about your favourite / most memorable patient?

I once delivered a baby in the car park! Such an amazing end to a night shift and something I will never forget.

What do you love about being a nurse?

I love …

  • helping people and being the person who comforts someone on the worst and darkest days
  • learning about how the human body works
  • knowing how things work and why things are occurring.

What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you in nursing?

The scariest thing that has ever occurred to me was walking on shift on a Sunday morning and finding my Dad in our resuscitation room. I spent the rest of the day in our cardiac ICU as he was having a STEMI. Things were very scary that day, but of course, in true form, he was home within a few days and is now busy running after his grandchildren.

What’s an “insult” you’ve received that you’re proud of?

That I look better in daylight. 🤣 I was definitely proud of this insult, although I must have been looking terrible that night.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

A compliment from any parent! As a parent myself, I understand how thankful I am when my children are sick and have been cared for. Seeing a parent a few days later and having them thank me and hug me in the corridor are my favourite compliments. If I can provide one parent with reassurance, I have done my job.

What is your advice for nurses considering a career pathway like yours? What is your top tip for someone wanting to do the same?

Nursing is a great career. Everyone has hard days and I think you need to be prepared for that but overall nursing is a fantastic career and well worth it.

Be passionate about the job. Being passionate will get you anywhere.

Make mistakes but learn from them. Someone once said to me ‘don’t worry if you make a mistake – you will never make that mistake again’. Take your time and don’t cut corners or rush doing medications. Errors occur all the time and rushing doesn’t help anyone. We had recently had a minor medication error picked up and it was great advice for everyone in the room. Something that has just stuck with me and I’ve actually used during my education sessions.

What is something about you that your nursing colleagues don’t know?

I am completely in awe of any nurse I meet. There are some amazing nurses who I work with every day and It would be strange to tell them I’m fan-girling over them because they are fantastic and so knowledgeable. I think every nurse brings something so unique to the ward or department and I love working with most nurses.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your nursing job?

My biggest challenge is knowing what to do and where to go next. People often ask me if I’m studying or what my plans are and I really have no idea. I have two post-graduates in different specialisations and I have loved every aspect so far. At this point in my life, one day at a time.

10 Quick Questions with Kim 

Q: How do you de-stress from the juggle of everything you do?

A: Reflect, a lot. On my life, my career, being a mother etc. I often think about how far I’ve come and how quickly my last 10 years of nursing have gone and what the future could hold.

Q: If you could go back and give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

A: Always be nice to people, the hospital systems are small places and you never know who will help you down the track.

Q: Finish this sentence: If I could start over again, I would …

A: Stop stressing so much. Everything will fall into place. And I would never go back and start again because I’m right where I want to be and I’ve worked hard to get here.

Q: If you could change one thing in nursing, what would it be?

A: Before becoming a Mum, I worked in ED and the waiting room was just part of my day-to-day life. Since being a Mum I have sat in that waiting room and I have seen the despair that occurs there. If I could change one thing, it would be to ensure all patients are seen immediately and waiting rooms aren’t required especially when little kids are involved. Breaks my heart.

Q: Who or what keeps you motivated?

A: My husband and children keep me motivated and remind me each and every day why I go to work. Any person who is thankful for my care; they motivate me to keep going and turn up every day.

Q: What made you laugh today?

A: Nothing nursing related … Watching my two-year-old teach my 9-month-old how to throw a ball today. It was absolute chaos but they had fun, although there were a few near misses.

Q: Favourite holiday destination?

A: Fiji, London, New York.

Q: What is the best place you have ever worked (even if it was for just one shift)?

A: It would have to be doing Rapid Antigen Testing on a Construction Site during COVID. I returned to work after 4 months with my first Son as we were in the middle of COVID; the cars lined up; we tested,  and the cars moved onto the site. Great hours, great money and great company. A cruisy lifestyle!

Q: What’s one lesson your job has taught you that you think everyone should learn at some point in their life?

A: That there’s a lot of sadness in the world and most of us are incredibly lucky to be alive and healthy. And when I see what other people are dealing with daily, I think many issues that people talk about aren’t really issues after all.

Q: What’s the quote you live by?

A: Growing old is a privilege that many don’t experience.

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