Catching a break with “The Nurse Break”
The Lamp Online caught up with Jackson Heilberg from The Nurse Break.
The Lamp: Thanks so much for catching up with us from not-so-sunny Melbourne!
You started The Nurse Break midway through last year, and I must say, you’ve done a stellar job with it. Can you tell us a bit about the blog, and what you wanted to achieve with it?
Jackson: Firstly, thank you for the kind words and opportunity to speak with The Lamp. The Nurse Break was born out of frustration during my nursing studies and graduate year as a Registered Nurse. Frustration with the fact that some healthcare professionals and the public didn’t fully realise the capacity, complexity and variety of the role of a nurse.
The blog was also created out of a desire to capture the amazing stories and careers from nurses I was meeting early on in my studies and graduate year. Larelle is a trauma nurse at The Alfred Hospital and has been so for 20+ years. As an undergraduate student under her wing, and then as a colleague with her during my graduate year on the Trauma Ward, she oozed a passion unmatched by many for both education and nursing alike. I wanted to capture her experiences or those like her, because after 20 years of nursing – what amazing knowledge, wisdom and experiences they must have to share!
So it was born, The Nurse Break. The goal is to have content from amazing Australian nurses and other healthcare professionals from all clinical backgrounds, specialties and levels of experience that inspires and educates about the role of nursing.
Who has been the most interesting person you’ve interviewed?
J: This is a difficult question because I have interviewed such a variety of health professionals from all walks of life, specialities and experiences. I have found that the Australian nursing community has really enjoyed hearing from nurses working in areas that are less talked about and with little content online about them.
To remain diplomatic, I must say I do not have a favourite interview. However, if I had to choose a couple that I know people will really enjoy, these include the LIVE Q&A interview with Melanie Davies who is a Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Consultant. She gave an amazing insight into the role of a palliative care nurse and provided a down to earth reasoning as to why palliative care is “everyone’s business”.
The written interview with the CEO of the Royal Flying Doctors Service (QLD) Meredith Staib gave amazing insights into leadership and management roles that nurses can hold. While the written Q&A by Jo Scott who is a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse Practitioner & Paediatric Infant Perinatal Retrieval Nurse gave amazing in-depth insights into the clinically advanced roles that nurses can have.
You’ve had an incredibly varied career, despite having been in the profession for one and a half years. What is it that drew you to nursing as a career?
J: I have been a Registered Nurse since July 2019 after completing the post-graduate entry to nursing degree. I also applied for and became a Nursing Officer in the Australian Defence Force, through the Undergraduate Civil Schooling Student (LTS program) during my final years of study. My graduate year was at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne in both the Trauma Ward and General Medical Ward. I now work as an Emergency Nurse (Adults & Paediatrics) in one of Melbourne’s busiest Emergency Departments.
When thinking about what I wanted to do for a career, there were a few ‘requirements’ that I wanted. It must allow me to help people, allow me to travel and allow me to have endless career variety.
I was drawn to nursing through my time as a Volunteer First Responder with St John Ambulance Victoria. It was here that I was working within a limited scope of practice as a First Responder Medic, alongside RN’s, Critical Care RN’s, Doctors and Paramedics at major high-risk events and music festivals. The nurses played such a central role to the patients care especially critically ill patients and had such a broad skill set. This, alongside the knowledge that nursing would allow me to travel Australia and the world was the reason’s I decided to become a Registered Nurse.
What has been your most memorable experience so far?
J: I’ve had several memorable experiences through my time as a nurse. My time learning to nurse multi-trauma patients and acute and chronically ill patients in general medicine at The Alfred Hospital was a very rewarding experience. However, I have always wanted to work in the Emergency Department, so my current position has been a very memorable time indeed – especially starting as a new member of the team in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. This required my orientation and much of my training to be held online. All my colleagues already were wearing masks and face shields, so I relied on people writing their names on their face shields to recognise my new colleagues! Every day I am seeing new faces in the tearoom I have never met before! Nonetheless, it has been a crazy year 2020 and one I will never forget.
Speaking of COVID-19, how has it been on the frontlines of the pandemic in Melbourne?
J: I was at The Alfred Hospital in the general medical ward when COVID-19 kicked off. The hospital was having outbreaks, hundreds of staff were being furloughed and acutely unwell outliers from trauma, through to thrombolised stroke patients were coming to our ward. We were managing not just very sick general medical patients but also multiple new outliers from speciality areas. We managed well and had lots of support; The Alfred Hospital did a stellar job at managing the rapidly evolving situation.
Then, during the peak of COVID-19’s first wave, I moved to my current hospital into the emergency department. It’s been a busy time of uncertainty and anxiety for many, dripping sweat and dehydration in the gowns and masks, hundreds of emails and rapidly changing protocols. It has shone a light on how adaptable and solid the Australian healthcare system is.
One of your focuses on The Nurse Break is assisting early-career nurses with securing and maintaining a job. What is your advice for new nurses entering the field as graduates?
J: My advice for new nurses would be:
- You are not meant to know heaps about the clinical area you are rotating into. So, don’t stress too much about spending hours and hours reading up on the clinical area. You will learn most when you are there;
- Don’t take shortcuts when time poor and don’t become complacent and comfortable. That’s when your practice become dangerous;
- Take time to learn from allied health about their roles, how they help our patients recover and how we can all work better together;
- You are now a health professional, not a student. The things you say to patients, their visitors and colleagues will represent how that person views the profession – so portray the nursing profession well!
- Never, ever say “I am just a nurse”. Correct others if they say that also!
- Come across confident even if you are not to patients and visitors. However, if you don’t know the answer go find it. You need to do this to gain their trust but also never feel embarrassed to say you don’t know something;
- Look after your mental and physical wellbeing;
- Work to live, not live to work;
- Join your union!
And on a totally different note: I know you’re a bit of a globetrotter! Where would you recommend our readers jet off to once borders open back up again?
J: I do love travel and backpacking random places! My favourites include Cuba, Laos, Columbia, Nepal, Spain and Vietnam. If you are travelling for the first time then I suggest Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam as a round trip, or Europe.
And where would you like to head off to next?
J: I would love to go to Tonga, Samoa or somewhere in this part of the world to go waterfall and isolated beach hunting!
Thanks so much for the chat Jackson! Fingers crossed for the recovery in Melbourne, and all the best with The Nurse Break!
J: Thank you so much!
You can check out Jackson’s blog, The Nurse Break, here.