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Student nurse Gabrielle Cameron

29 September 2022

‘We’re capable of more than we give ourselves credit for’: student Gabrielle shares what she’s learned from nursing

Here at Deakin, we love hearing more about how you – our students – manage your studies, how you’re growing and reaching your goals as you progress, and what insights you may have gleaned about your future profession.

We recently asked Health student Gabrielle Cameron, who is currently completing a Bachelor of Nursing at Burwood Campus, to tell us more about why she chose her course, what she has been learning both in the classroom and out in the field, and her proudest moment so far as a student nurse.

What do you love about your course?
I love the focus on people and the hands-on practical application. I started a Bachelor of Biomedical Science in 2019 but switched into nursing after a year. I noticed that when my friends in nursing talked about their hospital placements, I felt a twinge of jealousy. I’m glad I responded to that feeling because I am totally where I’m meant to be now!

What area are you hoping to work in after you finish your degree?
After nearly two years in this degree, I finally have an answer to this question! I want to become a rural and remote-area nurse. Rural hospitals are usually under-staffed and under-resourced, so this specialty area of nursing requires a diverse and proficient skill set. My main experiences influencing this decision were a month-long rural hospital placement and attending the National Nursing Forum.

Tell us about the High School to Health Careers Program – how did you first get involved?
This program is run by the Northern Territory Primary Health Network. I saw the advertisement posted on Deakin’s Bachelor of Nursing homepage and immediately knew I wanted to do it. Shortly after applying, I was selected along with four other nursing students from around the country. We were flown up to Darwin where we attended the National Nursing Forum and spent time in high schools promoting health careers to teenagers. The latter involved running workshops with the students, demonstrating skills they would learn if they attended university. For example, my workshop was about vital signs, and a friend did hers on the diabetes management. I loved the opportunity to encourage students to pursue a career in health, as many students (like me!) had never considered this option.

Nurses are powerful leaders, capable of influencing incredible change… it’s a privilege to do what we do!

You recently attended the 2022 National Nursing Forum in Darwin. What was that like and what were the key things you learned?
The National Nursing Forum is run annually by the Australian College of Nursing (ACN). It’s a three-day conference which brings together many key players in the nursing field from around Australia. The theme for this year was ‘nursing leadership unmasked’. My favourite presentations highlighted nurse leaders who dreamed up brave and innovative solutions to address contemporary issues in nursing. For example, Sonia Martin spoke about her courageous decision to leave her safe nursing job to create a mobile on-road medical clinic for the homeless, now known as Sunny Street. The most important thing I learned is that nurses are powerful leaders, capable of influencing incredible change. Being a nurse does not look like just one thing. We are important voices in all areas of law, policy and social reform. It’s a privilege to do what we do!

What do you wish you knew when you first began your studies?
I began my nursing studies in the throes of the pandemic, where stress was high and motivation was low. I honestly contemplated dropping out of my course many times. My advice to my first-year self would be that it gets better. First-year nursing covers a lot of fairly rudimentary stuff. You need the foundational knowledge to build upon but most of the action doesn’t happen until later on. Keep pressing on and you will get through it. I’d also tell her to access mental health support sooner because it makes a world of difference. I have used Deakin’s counselling services and it’s been super helpful to talk about my struggles with someone who really cares.

Do you have any advice for new Health/Nursing students?
My advice would be to look for the positives and try to avoid complaining. Hospital placement hours are long and exhausting, and it’s normal to want to vent about that. But it really helps to remember that we are there for only a tiny sliver of our patients’ lives and we don’t get to see the whole picture. We have the opportunity to provide a glimmer of hope in their dark hours and that is an absolute privilege. No one likes being in hospital and having to expose their story, and their body, to a total stranger. But we get to make them feel safe and comfortable. That’s a beautiful thing we should never take for granted. It’s so much more enjoyable when we adopt a positive mindset.

What’s been your proudest moment as a student nurse?
My favourite moment as a student nurse was on my first day of my most recent hospital placement. I took a patient’s routine vital signs (blood pressure, oxygen saturation, etc.) and discovered that she was deteriorating. I did the necessary actions to ensure her safety, including putting her on supplemental oxygen. The next day she was air-lifted to a major hospital with suspected sepsis! I was proud that my learning had amounted in a positive outcome for the patient. 

What are you most looking forward to in 2023?
Next year, I’ll be back to acute hospital placement and will be taking on a full patient load. What this means is that instead of watching or assisting my buddy nurse in my hospital shifts, I will be taking the lead, with my buddy nurse there to supervise me. This is a little daunting, but it’s the next step in becoming a grad-ready nurse! I’m excited to grow my competencies and become a ‘real’ nurse. And of course, I’m super excited to apply for graduate nurse programs and hopefully be accepted into my dream remote-nursing program!

What have you learned about yourself by doing this course?
I honestly never expected to go into healthcare. In high school I thought I’d become a journalist! But I’ve come to learn that I am a very nurturing person and that I love to care for people in their hardest moments. I’ve learnt there’s no shame in the human body. I’ve (mostly) resolved my fear of needles. I have discovered that I am able to fully embrace someone’s emotional reality for those intimate moments, without it consuming the rest of my day. And finally, I have learnt so much from my patients about the human capacity for strength, vulnerability and resilience. I think we all are capable of more than we give ourselves credit for.

How are your studies going?

Want to share your story with us? We’d love to hear from you!

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