Jessica Richards
Jessica Richards

Jessica Richards

PDG Joe Scorer
Rural Nursing Scholarship 2023

University of Wollongong, NSW

Final Rural Placement – South-East Regional Hospital (Bega)
Post Grad Placement – South-East Regional Hospital (Bega)

Rural Nursing Scholarship Program

Why do I wish to do rural and remote training?

My name is Jessica Richards, and I am a mum of two children and a wife to a supportive husband.  I am proud to say that two weeks ago I finally completed my Bachelor of Nursing at Wollongong University, Bega Campus.  My dream to become a nurse began at 18 years old, when I initially applied for a nursing degree and was accepted.   I was so excited when starting my course, however in the first few weeks of the course I began to doubt my abilities.   I then transferred to teaching.   Over the following years I had a successful teaching career as well as gaining Masters in Special Education and Teacher Librarianship.  Despite thoroughly enjoying teaching, I never stopped wondering what it would be like to be a nurse.   However, starting over in a new career seemed terrifying.   With the support of my husband, I decided to take the leap and chase my dream of becoming a nurse, beginning my degree in 2020.

Completing the degree has been extremely rewarding.  I am so excited to say I have found a new passion and hope to be a good example for my children, demonstrating to them that it is never too late to chase your dream.   Gone are the days where we need to pick a career at 18 and stick with it.   I love to teach my children that we are constantly learning and there are always such benefits from trying something new and putting yourself out of your comfort zone.

Alon with the rewards of the degree there have also been many challenges.  With a family, I needed to continue to teach whilst also studying.  One of the biggest challenges has been juggling my children in care whilst working and studying.   This will continue to be even more of a challenge next year when I begin my graduate year at South-East Regional Hospital, transferring from a teacher to a shift worker.  Both of my children will be in school, and I will need to organise and fund after school care.  If I was successful in gaining this scholarship it would be extremely beneficial in relieving some of the financial pressure the degree has placed on my family.

… Finally, I love this area and I love living rural.  I grew up in Merimbula and returning after having my children.   My family is actively involved in the community through sports and other community events.  I hope to be able to stay in this area as I believe that there are so many opportunities for nurses and for my family.   With a background in gaged care, I am really passionate about providing care for the aging population in our area.

Final (University) Rural Report

For my final 3rd year placement I was placed in the Intensive Care Unit of South East Regional Hospital in Bega. I was equally nervous as I was excited. Being such an acute ward, I was nervous that I would not understand a lot that was going or may not feel good enough to be in that nursing area. On the other hand, I was extremely excited that this would be my last placement as a student. I could see the end of my nursing degree in sight. I was also grateful to be placed close to my family home so that I didn’t need to be away from my two young children for too long.

The ICU ward consisted of 10 beds and the ratio was generally one nurse to one or two patients, depending on the acuity of the patient. All of the staff were extremely skilled in their field and appeared to love teaching. Every person made me feel welcome and each and every day I learned so many new skills that I will take with me into my grad year rotations. There were so many practical skills I was able to experience for the first time such as caring for a person with a stoma, caring for a person with a tracheostomy, caring for a person with a chest drain just to name a few.

What I loved most about this placement, is that I made many connections with staff in the hospital. Not just nurses but also doctors, ward clerks, wards men and cleaners. As I had already applied for my grad year at South East Regional hospital I knew that it was important to build connections with my future colleagues to ensure smooth transition into my grad year next year.

Whilst on the placement I received a nomination from both the hospital and my clinical facilitator from the uni for my performance as a student. This positive experience in ICU has lit a fire in me to get back into the ward as an RN. I hope to complete some further study in the area of acute care nursing as well as possibly complete a transition to practice program where I transition into the ICU after my grad year.

Post Grad Rural Placement Report

My new grad year began in January with a week of orientation at South East Regional Hospital in Bega. Meeting up with my new grad cohort was very exciting as I knew these people were going to be my future colleagues as well as support network. The content of the week was extremely overwhelming and I began to wonder if I was ready. The second week I went down to Pambula Hospital for my first rotation. Pambula Hospital is a small rural hospital that consists of 13 beds in a general ward as well as an Assessment and Treatment Centre that is open until 9-3pm each day. We mostly receive our patients from South East Regional Hospital although some are admitted straight from home with referral from community health. The patients are usually either palliative or older people needing more services to return home or placement in aged care.

My first day at the hospital I was feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement. I received a couple of super numerary days which were very helpful in transitioning before I had my own patient load. Everyone was extremely supportive and helpful in those first few weeks but I was still shocked at how overwhelming it feels to be a Registered Nurse and to be fully accountable and responsible for your decisions. I was mostly terrified of making a medication error so would move very slowly when administering medications which would lead to me not having great time management. There were moments when I was struggling with my confidence but had to remind myself that I needed to allow myself time to adjust and find my feet. It was better for me to prioritise and move slowly to make sure I was providing safe care rather than rush.

As the weeks have gone by I have become more and more confident. I ensure that I take hold of as many learning opportunities as I can to make the most of my new grad program. Recently I have learnt to take blood and it has been so nice to feel so supported by my colleagues whilst learning this new skill. I have also enjoyed learning about palliative care and improving my skills in this area. It is a huge privilege to be able to care for people in their last stages of life as well as support their families. It is an area that I wish to pursue further in my career.

The biggest challenge of all has been adjusting to shift work. My previous career was teaching so I have always been around when my kids have finished school and in holidays etc. My children and husband have found it challenging that I now am working all different hours and in turn need to miss family events and activities. Luckily my parents have been very supportive in my change of career and have been assisting with supporting the children and my husband when needed.

Overall, it has been a great start to my new grad year in the Bega Valley and I look forward to learning so much more in the future. I have 8 more weeks left in Pambula before I transition to Surgical Ward in Bega.

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