It was a UK working holiday seventeen years ago that planted the seed for Shelley Pasquill’s journey to becoming an enrolled nurse.
After arriving in the UK, office work was scarce so, in need of an income, she stumbled upon a caring agency who offered her a live-in carer position working for a C4 spinal injury client.
She had no experience. The role involved living with the client 24 hours a day with only the assistance of a council carers to train her.
‘I look back with horror as I was administering suppositories, caring for an SPC and dealing with autonomic dysreflexia. He even had me putting 20mls of saline in the SPC tube to unblock it.’
From there she cared for a couple more clients, learning on-the-job. This inspired her to obtain a certificate III in aged care when she returned to Australia and work as a live-out home carer.
After the global financial crisis affected her work opportunities, Shelley became a disability support worker at Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) group homes. She says disability work gave her experience with ADLs and medication administration.
It was her desire to learn more, and frustrations with the limitations of her disability and caring roles, which led her to enrolling in the nursing course at Federation TAFE.
‘In the DHHS, staff are making decisions about residents that affect their life, including attending doctor’s and specialist’s appointments. Yet there is no training around medications for disability support workers, except medication administration.’
‘All of these experiences led me to feel like I needed to know more.’
After graduating last year, Shelley began a graduate year at a private metropolitan hospital. She says that she feels blessed to be working where she is, citing her educators, and the number of new things she’s learnt.
‘It’s been emotional and hard but rewarding. I have cried a river, but, I think there are times the tears are celebration tears.’
‘Already we have done PICC and cannulation on our study days. I have done two cannulations supervised, one more and I can do cannulation on my own.
She says that time management and completing everything by the end of the shift has been her biggest challenge so far.
‘It’s hard to learn to hand things over to other staff members when you can’t get everything done. But eventually you must concede that that’s what you need to do.’
Her advice to students, especially diploma students, is to start looking at hospitals that offer grad years early.
‘Go to the nursing expo [ACN expo] and then attend the open day/evening sessions of different hospitals. Ask a lot of questions, especially what kinds of skills do they teach ENs, not everywhere is the same with what they will let an EN do.’
In her down time, she likes to de-stress by walking and listening to music. If she needs to vent she talks with trusted friends who understand the challenges of the profession.
Eventually Shelley believes her curiosity to learn more and do more will lead her to becoming a registered nurse, but for now she’s happy with where she is.
‘I want to spend the time crawling before I walk. I want to learn the foundations first.’