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.

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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.

Pic­ture: Jo-Anna Robin­son

Nurse Ally Chap­ple with Cai­ley, 3, at the Flin­ders Uni­ver­sity School of Nurs­ing and Mid­wifery.

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