A dose of skills
The changing face of nursing has given staff new and greater roles at the forefront of healthcare, CareerOne Editor Cara Jenkin discovers.
TODAY’S nurses are treating patients by prescribing medication, leading research and working in highly technical environments at the forefront of healthcare.
Gone are the days when nurses were seen as the hospital support staff by changing bedpans and bandages, and being a doctor’s right hand in treating patients.
The modern face of nursing is more a specialist and highly skilled role, and more types of nursing jobs are being created every year.
The Dean of Flinders University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, Professor Paul Arbon, says specialist roles are tackling sexual health, mental health and aged care.
‘‘But remote area, retrieval and disaster nursing are some of the cutting-edge, life-and-death and exciting roles many in the community are unaware are open to nurses,’’ he says.
‘‘With disaster nursing, the call is for more nurses than anything in the first couple of days (after a natural disaster),’’ he says.
‘‘Nurses are the ones who know how hospitals operate, how to set up hospitals, get supplies, do the logistics and know how to get everything up and running.
‘‘Nurses are on the front line, dealing with staff in the middle of the night, making life and death decisions, and have responsibility for patients when no one else is around.’’
Prof Arbon says more care to people and patients is being provided outside of hospital or health centres, through preventive measures co-ordinated by nurses to avoid patients becoming sick or going to hospital in the first place.
Hospital stays are shorter and more care is provided by nurses to patients as they recover at home.
Factories and other industrial workplaces have occupational health and safety nurses conduct assessments with health workers and renal nursing involves work with technical equipment.
Modern nurses are conducting more research and are involved with new techniques, equipment development and understanding of medical issues because they have more interaction with patients than any other medical staff.
PhD candidate Wendy Abigail, 50, is a hospital-trained nurse who worked in women’s health for 18 years before taking on a significant research project.
She has drawn on her experience to explore the issues behind an increasing number of women aged over 30 who were having a pregnancy termination.
‘‘This is what I’ve always done – I just did it, but I didn’t realise what I was doing,’’ she says. ‘‘I absolutely had no idea that this is where I would end up (when I started my nursing career), especially as a hospital-trained nurse, as the training now is so different.’’
She says healthcare was different 30 years ago, as patients now are ‘‘sicker’’ with more complicated medical issues that require new and increased skills.
‘‘I want to go down the academic stream – teaching and research,’’ she says.
‘‘Once I finish the PhD, I definitely will be pursuing further research projects in this area.
‘‘There are not many people who research this topic.’’
Associate Dean, practice development, Lesley Siegloff says many nurses start their careers as a ward nurse in a hospital and see the opportunities available to them and move on to other areas.
‘‘There are really interesting areas to go into and nurses are taking up those roles with greater acuity,’’ she says.
Flinders University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery celebrates 35 years of training nurses this year and is one of the oldest nursing training schools in South Australia.
This year is the International Year of the Nurse and International Nurses Day will be held on Wednesday.
Nurse Ally Chapple with Cailey, 3, at the Flinders University School of Nursing and Midwifery.