RMIT Diploma of Nursing teacher and registered nurse Kate Lamble grew up in Bairnsdale, so it’s serendipitous that she should spend some of her summer – as a CFA volunteer – fending off a bushfire in Cann River, east of her home town, and sleeping on the floor of the Cann River Bush Nursing Centre.
Cann River nurses like Marija Mrsic and the rest of the small town’s residents had been evacuated in early January but luckily for the township, there were three nurses – Kate, plus a newly qualified enrolled nurse Kimberley Byrne and a former veterinarian nurse – in the CFA strike team which turned up to protect homes and property. One of the homes they took special care to protect was Marija’s.
‘It was just that sense of nurses, no matter where we are, we support each other,’ Kate said. ‘There’s that instant respect and empathy for the person.’
‘Marija was literally on her own until we showed up and even though we were not there in a nursing capacity – we were there as firefighters, when we told her we were nurses, you could see the relief on her face; she realised she might have some kind of back-up if she needed it.’
Kate says it’s also pragmatic to protect the homes of community members who are providing essential services: a remote area nurse in a small town is not going to be as useful to her community if she has nowhere to live.
Since moving to Melbourne in 1994, Kate has continued to keep one foot in the country, choosing to live in areas on the city’s outskirts. She joined the CFA 14 years ago and says most of the incidents she attends are car accidents.
‘CFA volunteers live in areas that don’t have a paid fire brigade.
A lot of people in Melbourne don’t understand that when they get to the fringe suburbs their fire brigade is manned by volunteers,’ Kate said. ‘When you call 000 and get a fire truck, unless you live in inner Melbourne, you’ll get a volunteer.’
Kate worked in general medicine for seven years at Royal Melbourne Hospital and then as a nurse unit manager at The Austin Hospital before studying for a Certificate IV in Workplace Assessment and Training and securing a teaching position in 2016. She has also had two stints as an ANMF Job Rep, while working at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and at Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. Kate was an ANMF (Vic Branch) Councillor from 2007-2011.
‘When I was a nurse unit manager I used to love making sure my students had a good experience and I used to tell my staff “These are your colleagues of the future: you need to support them,” Kate said.
‘I think that if you can get them while they’re young and teach them the correct way to do things right from the start, hopefully you’ll spit out a really good nurse.’
In the first week of the teaching year, Kate was reflecting on what she wishes her teachers told her more about when she was studying nursing nearly three decades ago.
‘Knowledge of what it’s really like to be in the workforce,’ Kate says.
As a country girl who started her nursing career at age 18, Kate says she was somewhat naïve to the ways of the world when she first joined the workforce.
‘I remember the first day I had a sick day. I felt so awful about calling in sick,’ she said. ‘And then when I got my payslip I was like: “Why do I still have the same amount of money?” and someone had to explain to me that when you’re sick you still get paid!’
Along with the considerable clinical knowledge Kate imparts teaching units such as clinical assessment, care plans, nursing in the Australian healthcare system and primary health, Kate adds tidbits that students might not yet understand about working life.
‘That you can’t be late for a shift; that there are only a certain number of people who can go on a holiday on a ward at once… When you apply for holidays, there’s a policy for applying for holidays, and never book an overseas trip before you’ve had your holidays approved.’