Caring for our community
Published at: 13 May 2019
This month marks both International Midwives Day on May 5 and International Nurses Day on May 12. Both days are a chance to celebrate the contribution these health professionals make each and every day.
Interim Chief of Nursing and Midwifery at Goulburn Valley Health Kellie Thompson said International Nurses Day is commemorated on Florence Nightingale’s birthday while International Midwives Day came out of the 1987 International Confederation of Midwives conference in the Netherlands.
Ms Thompson said nurses and midwives were essentially the “backbone” in providing health care for all which tied nicely with this year’s theme “A voice to lead; health for all”.
“The nursing profession is the largest profession in health,” she said.
“It’s very much the glue that keeps the health care system going across all the fields.”
Transition to Practice Coordinator at GV Health Lyn Brett said nurses were the “constant” for patients during their health care journey.
“There’s a nurse when you come through the front door and there’s a nurse with you the whole way through your transition,” she said.
“We’re pretty much involved in every step of your journey.”
While the profession does require the personality traits of being a caring and nurturing person, Ms Thompson said there was often a common reason why someone wanted to be a nurse.
“A common answer is - I wanted to make a difference,” she said.
Ms Thompson said there were many different disciplines within the overall nursing sector, including midwifery, which required a separate qualification.
A common pathway into the nursing profession, according to Ms Thompson, was completing a Bachelor of Nursing at university before taking on a post-graduate degree in a specialised area.
“Today, to be a nurse, in any discipline you do the same basic introductory education,” Senior Mental Health Nurse at GV Health Melissa Metcalf said.
Maternity Services Manager at GV Health Carmel Brophy highlighted the fact nursing or midwifery were fantastic career choices and said the profession allowed for “life-long learning.”
“You’ll never be without work,” she added.
“There’s never a better time to start your career.”
With GV Health’s redevelopment underway, Ms Thompson said the organisation would need at least 150 new nurses to resource the new service.
“We want lots more nurses and midwives to come and join us,” she said.
“It’s a great career choice.”
Diversity in profession
Given the vast expanse of different areas within the nursing sector, four GV Health nursing staff have provided a snap shot of their roles, showcasing the diversity of jobs within the nursing umbrella.
GV Health's Interim Chief Nursing and Midwifery officer, Kellie Thomson
The chief of nursing and midwifery would have once worn a gigantic matron’s hat in years gone by.
But the role involves so much more than overseeing the hospital today according to Ms Thompson.
“Nowadays it has a much broader role of promoting and embedding nursing as a core function for health care across the entire organisation to foster and promote lifelong learning and educational opportunities so we continue to provide better health care,” she said.
“Anyone who is employed as a nurse or midwife, I have a professional responsibility for.
“It’s my role to try and develop nursing and to provide opportunities for nursing across that diversity.”
Ms Thompson said she was also a community member which had a huge impact on her work.
“All of us live in the community….it’s a strong motivator for us to want to provide really good quality nursing and health care because we’ve got a pivotal role to play in our community,” she said.
GV Health's Maternity Services Manager, Carmel Brophy
For a midwife, there is no typical day on the job.
“It’s a bit similar to the Emergency Department – you never know what’s going to walk through your door,” Ms Brophy said.
“It could be something normal and it could be something not normal.
“Every day is different - you can’t go to work and say I know what I’m going to be doing tomorrow -you may look after a birth, you may look after someone on the ward, help support breast feeding or you might be booking someone in whose going to have a baby or you could be going out to their home and visiting.”
Ms Brophy said it could be challenging having to make quick connections with patients during some of their most vulnerable times.
“It’s a privilege because you’re watching a new life come into the world,” she said.
Ms Brophy said there were a few different pathways to become a midwife.
“You can do a Bachelor of Nursing then post graduate degree in midwifery for 12 months,” she said.
“Or you can do a double degree and do both; or you can do just a Bachelor of Midwifery.”
Most post-graduates will complete their training on the job, according to Ms Brophy.
“We work with La Trobe University in Bendigo for our post graduates and some undergraduates,” she said.
Interim Chief of Nursing and Midwifery at Goulburn Valley Health Kellie Thompson also noted that GV Health’s maternity services were also provided outside the hospital.
“Maternity services are provided not only within hospital but within people’s homes as well; we’re taking the service to the people and meeting the demands of the community,” she said.
GV Health's Senior Mental Health Nurse, Melissa Metcalf
Often the skills required to be a mental health nurse are not necessarily understood by non-mental health nurses.
“Because it’s not very task-orientated; it’s very much about interpersonal relationships, observation, assessment skills, communication and therapeutic interventions,” Ms Metcalf said.
GV Health has just 20 in-patient mental health beds so most of their work is done out in the community and supporting other sectors within the hospital such as the emergency department and maternity services.
“The majority of the people are seen in primary health care so that’s about increasing awareness that someone with a mental health issue may be admitted to any part of the hospital not necessarily into the mental health service,” Ms Metcalf said.
“So it’s about how do we support our colleagues and people with mental health issues in all of the sectors of health.”
Ms Metcalf explained mental health nurses played a pivotal role in navigating patients through the mental health service which included a huge variety of skilled staff such as a family violence worker, an Aboriginal liaison officer, psychiatrists and more.
She said student placements were hugely important as a result because nurses often found themselves stumbling into mental health work.
“What we find now is people are going into nursing and often stumble across mental health as part of their undergraduate training,” Ms Metcalf said.
“We really rely on experiences nurses have in undergraduate training to get them hooked into mental health.”
Ms Metcalf said it was an incredibly diverse and rewarding career.
“We’re privileged…that we can have an impact on the trajectory of someone’s life and experiences,” she said.
GV Health's Transition to Practice Coordinator, Lyn Brett
Ms Brett’s journey to her current role demonstrates nurses are constantly learning and growing.
“I have had a long and windy journey; I never would have thought I would end up here now,” she said.
Starting out as an enrolled nurse, Ms Brett then took time off work to get married and start her family but returned to do undergraduate training when her youngest started primary school.
After spending 15 years at GV Health as a registered nurse, Ms Brett said she fell into the education sector.
“I work in the nursing education side and have input in our transition programs,” she said.
“I introduce work experience students to the nursing role all the way through to supporting nurses on the ward.”
Ms Brett also takes care of programs that support enrolled nurses who have completed their qualifications at Tafe rather than university.
“I’m currently doing a post graduate leadership management course,” she said.
Ms Brett is also in charge of the ‘Nurse A Day in May’ initiative which is running in conjunction with International Nurses Day and International Midwives Day which sees nurses throughout the organisation profiled on their nursing careers.