Saturday 22 September 2018

The Great Gatsby Ball, and Settling Into Routine

My first week at work was a bit of a drag, given that I was supernumary Monday through Friday, and this knocked my confidence a little as I certainly didn't feel like a nurse, and after three months off work I was desperate to get my purpose back. It was necessary of course, as there was so much to learn, staff and patients to get to know, and a whole load of new purposes. The best way for me to learn however, is by doing, and come Sunday I was finally allocated into the numbers and I learnt much more, and the shift seemed to fly by.

Prior to starting work I'd had big worries about the journey and the best way to get to and from work. I've discovered that I quite enjoy public transport, as the bus stop is three minutes walk from my house, the bus takes only 20 minutes, and then the walk at the other end is another 20 minutes. The walk takes me through two beautiful parks, and first thing in the morning when the sun is rising the views are stunning and I enjoy the time to myself listening to podcasts. What I have since discovered however, is that the buses home stop at 21:00, and my late shifts end at 21:30. So the last two late shifts I had to get an Uber home, with the other options being that I cycle (currently not confident enough to cycle home in the dark) or walk, which takes almost two hours. I'm planning to cycle for a couple of early shifts so I can get to know the route in the day time, as I certainly don't want to be getting into the habit of getting Ubers home, even if they are only a dollar or two more expensive than the bus (thankfully there are always Uber discount codes here!) It has also made me question whether I want a car, but I am determined to make do without, as I just don't think the costs would be worth it in the long run.

One of the great things I have discovered since getting a bike, as that there are so many little parks and green spots that will be amazing come Summer time. A lot of the parks have gated off areas for dogs to run around in off the lead which are really popular and such a great idea. They also have outdoor BBQs which anyone can use, and I can't for Summer to roll around so I can sit out in the parks of an evening after work. The cycle route to work goes along the Merri Creek, and the one day I managed to cycle it felt like such a treat to be able to cycle instead of get the bus.

Whilst being in Australia I have probably walked more than I ever have since owning a car, as everywhere I go I walk, whether it's going to the supermarket, meeting friends, or heading to the gym or library. I feel so much healthier for it and it has been a great way to discover more places, as driving places means you don't really get to discover the little nooks and crannies of a place. There have only been a few times that I've missed having a car, and now with having a bike I think I'll be looking to do a few bike rides in the Summer. At least I am mostly getting my exercise in every day, as previously work days would mean sitting in front of the computer all day and barely moving.

Despite joining the gym two weeks ago, it has taken me until now to finally attend a class! I had planned to go most days during my first week at work, but was so exhausted after work and taking in so much new information, that I decided to go easy on myself and give myself the week to settle in. However, I attended a spinning class yesterday and I knew that all it would take to get the gym bug back would be to attend just one class, and finally I'm motivated to start attending again. I don't really have any excuse, because the gym is no more than a five minute walk from my front door, and the classes are on at all hours of the day from 06:00 through until 19:00, so there's no doubt I can find something to fit around my shifts.

Saturday was my only day off during my first week of work, which was very fortunate as a group of girls and I had all booked tickets to a 1920s Great Gatsby-themed ball. We had booked the tickets well in advance, and they cost us $80 each, so we were expecting great things; I would have been hugely pissed off if I’d been rostered on to work it!

The girls and I spent weeks trying to find cheap outfits and accessories, and finally on Saturday we'd managed to pull it off and we were super excited about going to the 'ball’. However, our excitement was short-lived as the ball itself was a complete let-down. The ticket included an open bar from 7-11pm, as well as buffet food / canap├ęs. When we got there we queued for just under an hour to get a drink, at which point people were getting so annoyed that the bar staff resorted to handing out whole bottles. Beer, wine, and soft drinks were free, but instead of just lining up glasses for people to help themselves to, they were taking orders, which didn’t make any sense at all. They had run out of fizzy by 8pm according to the angry commenters on the Facebook group. I didn’t see a single plate of food. The cloakroom consisted of a clothes rail in the middle of the hallway - unattended - which at the end of the night resulted in coats and bags spread out across the floor, trampled on and in a big messy heap. The music was definitely not 20s, and the venue looked more like a cheap nightclub than something worthy of a ball. People were understandably getting very angry in the queue for the bar. WE didn’t last very long and left at around 21:30, and decided to head home to get UberEats!

The next day, the comments on the Great Gatsby Facebook page formed a source of entertainment in their own right. It seems everyone else had exactly the same opinion as us, and the company was left to grovel and apologise to all of the scathing comments. They sent an e-mail out a few days later to apologise but also to say that they weren’t in a position to offer any refunds. It was a shame that the event we’d so been looking forward to ended up being such a disaster, but oh well!


Friday 21 September 2018

Four Days in The Mornington Peninsula

The weekend before I started work, I went away to the Mornington Peninsula for three nights, with four other girls from the UK. Three of the girls are nurses, and we had met via Facebook groups we had all used before coming over to Australia. I can't stand Facebook at the best of times, but it has been the absolute best way for me to meet people over here, especially those with similar interests, like nursing. It was great to get a last little trip in before starting work, and a great distraction from the Sunday night feeling of work dread!


We didn't leave St Kilda until Thursday evening, as one of the girls is a supply teacher and therefore couldn't leave until after school. The drive took around two and a half hours thanks to the traffic, but it was a straight-forward drive with some beautiful views. I understand now why people say that Melbourne has 'four seasons in one day', as we started the day off with glorious sunshine, drove through torrential rain, and later experienced thunder and lightning. It makes it difficult to know exactly how to dress!

We stayed in the most beautiful Air BnB, but the owner insisted on waiting behind to meet us, as she'd seen that we were a group of five girls going away for a birthday weekend, and was concerned that we would be having a party. We assured here that we were two hours from home and therefore wouldn't even have anyone to invite for a party, and were just there for a relaxed weekend! She seemed suitably appeased and left us to it. We had a nice chilled evening with a home-cooked Mexican feast for dinner and a few bottles of wine, and just chilled ready for a fun-packed Friday.


Friday was Amy's birthday, so we had a lazy morning and a cooked breakfast before heading out to spend the day at the Peninsula Hot Springs. We arrived at around 10:30 and managed to while away the time until 16:30, chatting away and relaxing in the countless different baths. Each of the baths was around 40°, and actually at times was even too hot to be comfortable! We were very pleased we'd gone in Winter (despite people saying that it would be too cold to enjoy), as had we gone in Summer it would almost certainly have been unbearable. It was a gloriously sunny day and the views were beautiful.

On Friday evening we went to a Thai restaurant for dinner to celebrate Amy's birthday, and as is quite common here in Australia, the restaurant was a 'BYO alcohol'. We took a few bottles of fizz and had a nice long dinner. The restaurant was in Rye (interestingly there is also an Eastbourne, Seaford, and Peacehaven), where there isn't a great deal to do in the evenings, but we managed to find a pub a short walk down the road where they had some live music, as well as a beer garden which had been hired out for a girl's 18th birthday. It was hired until 10pm so by the time we got there we had a few drinks in the garden, but it was slightly horrifying for me to realise that 12 years have passed since I was 18! After having eaten so much food at dinner, we didn't stay out for too long and got a taxi back to the Air BnB.


We woke up Saturday morning to the sun shining brightly, and decided to sit out on the deck and have pancakes for breakfast. We were lulled into a false sense of security by the morning sun and dressed ready for Summer, only to remember later on in the day that Melbourne can have 'four seasons in one day' and it later got pretty chilly!

We hadn't planned much for Saturday other than to visit a winery, so we had a look on the ol' Google to find local things to do, and found that Arthurs Seat, the highest point of the Mornington Peninsula, was about a 20-minute drive away, and on such a clear day we thought it would be great to check out the view. It was definitely the right day for it, and we also paid to get the gondola to the bottom and back up again.

After we'd finished at Arthurs Seat, we went to The Cups Estate Winery at Fingal for a wine tasting session, and afterwards sat out on a picnic blanket in front of the stunning views with a glass of wine. As Grace was driving we only stopped for one glass, as before long we had to head back to the house to get ready to go out for dinner that evening.

Fairly limited for choice for dinner, we went back to Rye and went to a little independent Italian restaurant, which was absolutely delicious, and stopped for gelato afterwards. Despite a pretty slow-paced weekend, we still found ourselves quite tired, and after dinner went back to the house to watch a film and laze around. All in all a lovely relaxed day, and just what I needed.


Sunday morning was an even more lazy morning, as everyone was making the most of the opportunity to have a lie-in. I woke up with the Sunday morning dread, knowing that I was starting work the next day, so was glad to be heading back. We left the house around 11am and stopped at the beach for a quick wander, although the weather had turned a bit and the wind picked up, so we didn't stick around for lunch. We had a walk through the main drag of the high street to find somewhere to eat for lunch, and decided on a tapas restaurant. Afterwards we took the drive back to St Kilda, and thankfully it only took around an hour and a half on the way back.

All in all we had a gorgeous weekend, and I was so glad of the break before starting work.


Thursday 20 September 2018

Bali - Worth The Hype?

When I finally got a start date for work, I decided to book two weeks in Bali, given that I've always wanted to go and it's only a 6-hour flight from Melbourne. I was most excited about visiting Gili-T, having heard that it's the party capital and seen lots of fantastic photos of the area. A few days before I was due to fly out, the earthquake happened, and so understandably I was informed by the tour company that we would no longer be visiting the island of Lombok and the tour would be altered. I decided to still go ahead, mainly as I was desperate for more sun!

I decided to have two nights to myself in Kuta before joining the tour group, as I was very keen to chill by the pool, speed through a few books, and just enjoy time to myself. I feel like since arriving in Australia it has been a pretty overwhelming experience, and so it was nice to just switch off for a while.


Friday 14 September 2018

My First Week As a Nurse in Australia - Friday

Wednesday and Thursday I was on a normal early shift, working 07:00 to 15:30. This automatically felt much easier, as I was able to start at the same time as everyone else on the shift, listen to the handover, and be available for the allocation of tasks. Being supernumary means I am still shadowing and not being allocated my own tasks, so I am overloading on eLearning and reading up on patient notes. I’ve used electronic documentation systems for the last couple of years, but I’ve got to say that the electronic system used here is far more efficient than anything else I’ve used. In some ways Australia are miles behind the UK in terms of nursing care and processes, but in other ways they are far more forward-thinking. It still surprises me that they only have registered nurses on shift, and that staffing is outsourced to another department. The ward manager takes care of planning the rota, but after that point, it is the ‘clinical admin’ team (senior register nurses) who manage the entire unit and coordinate the staffing. In some ways this is beneficial as they can move staff across the various units and ensure that staffing levels are balanced, however, they are members of staff that do not know the ward staff personally or the dynamics of the ward, so they are making staffing decisions based purely on figures rather than staffing abilities and suitability of stafff to an environment.

I’ve had my mind set on cycling to work, as this will save me time and also be a good way to get a bit of exercise into my day. The bike needed a few things fixing which I did before my late shift (13:00 - 21:30) on Friday, but I had intended to get the bus and take my bike on a day when I had more time to suss the route out. However, I got carried away sorting the bike out and before I knew it I’d missed the bus, and had no choice but to cycle! Probably the best thing for me, as I have a bit of a fear about cycling on the roads with traffic, and so I knew I just needed to do it. The journey took me around 45 mins when Google Maps assured me it’d take 23 minutes; I got lost on the way and took a few wrong turns, meaning by the time I got to work I was absolutely knackered, but thankfully I ended up being only three minutes late for the shift. It always pays to get to the hospital pretty early as it can take a while to get through security, what with the bag scanner and iris recognition, and airlock doors which mean only three people can be let through at once. On the plus side, the route to cycle is about 80% designated cycle paths, including past creeks such as the one above. It’s a really scenic and enjoyable ride, particularly so as the sun was beaming today. On the way back however I think I’m going to have to find an alternative route, as there is no lighting and it’s a little on the creepy side!

Friday was my first late shift, and it seemed to go much faster than my previous shifts. Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that I knew it was my last shift as a supernumary member of staff, as I am back on Sunday and will finally be in the numbers. I must say I’ve actually really enjoyed this week, as the staff have all been so welcome, and I would go as far as to say that there are more English and Irish nurses at the hospital than there are Australian nurses! I feel I’ve got to a reasonable level of understanding of the ward processes and rules, but am aware that the real learning will take place once I am actually part of the numbers. 

I’ve only got Saturday off this week (the working week starts on a Sunday, which means I’ve ended up with six shifts on my first week in the job!) but I’ve got a ticket to go with a handful of girls to go to a Great Gatsby-themed 1920s ball with food and drink included. Thankfully I am on a late shift on Sunday so I will thoroughly enjoy my only night off! 

I have been told by various people that I will very quickly notice the perks of working in Australia as opposed to the UK when it comes to pay rates and enhancements (known as ‘penalities’ here), so I am looking forward to my first pay to see how it compares and whether I’m going to be able to save some money for more travels. 

First week, survived!

Tuesday 11 September 2018

My First Week As a Nurse in Australia - Tuesday

Tuesday got off to a slightly better start given that I remembered my bus pass this time - wahey!Not only that, but it feels much easier when you actually know where you’re going and what you’re walking into. Simple things like where the bus stops are and the route into work make all the difference. I did another 08:00 - 16:30 shift today as part of my ‘orie’, so again not starting a proper shift with everyone at 07:00, which only serves to further make me feel like a spare part. 

I’ve noticed that processes are a little more thorough here, and to be able to dispense medication you need to complete some competencies and be observed giving all medications at least three times, including depots. You also get tested on naming various medications and their side effects and trade names. It’s forced me to brush up a little but this can only be a very good thing! Thankfully I live with a pharmacist who is a great person to ask if I’m confused about generic / brand names, some of which I’m not used to. 

Today I shadowed a medication round and tried to familiarise myself with the medications used and how they’re organised, and the layout of the medication room. I spent a good couple of hours completing my eLearning and booking on to some face-to-face courses, and met the course lead for the ‘FERN’ course I will be completing (Forensic Education for Registered Nurses). I’m finding that the eLearning is allowing me to learn a lot of the basics such as acronyms used, ratings tools, paperwork, etc, without feeling like I’m constantly asking questions, although I am assured there is no such thing as a stupid question!

I’m trying to shadow as many different processes as I can at the moment whilst I’m supernumary so that I can be prepared for when I’m working as part of the staffing numbers next week. It felt like a very easy day’s work and a huge contrast to the hectic ward environments I’m used to, and under-staffing here is simply not a thing. The days feel long and slow, but hopefully when I have some responsibility that’ll be different. 

I feel a great deal better now that I have a job to go to, as I feel I have my purpose and routine back. Already I feel I am going to appreciate and enjoy my time off so much more, and it’ll be even better to be earning money as well as spending it! Most people are paid fortnightly here which is a nice change. 

I’m looking forward to actually doing a proper early shift tomorrow, and hope things will get more exciting!

Monday 10 September 2018

My First Week As a Nurse in Australia - Monday

First days at a new job are always daunting and somewhat anxiety-inducing, but coupled with a period of three months away from nursing entirely, I found myself worrying about whether I’d actually still know how to be a nurse and whether I’d be able to settle back into a ward environment easily enough. I got myself off to a bad start when I got on the bus to find that I’d forgotten my bus pass and had no cash, but thankfully the bus driver let me on regardless!

I met my new unit manager at 08:00 to go through the basics, and being in a forensic unit this involved setting up security access including fingerprints and iris recognition. I was shown around the ward and introduced to the staff on shift, and was very pleased to find that a few of the staff were from the UK and had only been there for a few months, so were also fairly new to the process of switching from UK to Aus nursing. This proved very helpful when I came up against countless acronyms and nursing terms that were specific to Australia, as they had had the same confusions and were able to explain the equivalents to me. It’s bad enough learning the acronyms and jargon from your own training, but to then be faced with a whole new set of terms makes it a lot more tricky.

I was very surprised to find that the shift is always purely made up of qualified nurses, but there are RPN2s and RPN3s, as well as Enrolled Nurses and Graduate Nurses - very confusing! From what I’ve gathered, an RPN2 is an equivalent of a band 5, and RPN3 a band 6. Only RPN3s can coordinate a shift, unlike in the UK when anyone can get thrown in at the deep end and you can find yourself in charge of the ward from the first week if you’re unlucky! Enrolled nurses are those that have done a diploma as opposed to a degree, and there are a few things that they cannot do until they are fully registered. 

I spent much of the day going through the electronic notes system and making a start on my mandatory training; being told you get a significant extra payment on your wage at the end of the year when your training is up-to-date certainly inspired me to get it all done! As much as eLearning is a bore, it’s actually been incredibly helpful for teaching me the basics.

All mental health nurses on the ward are expected to complete a postgraduate programme in forensic nursing, which is estimated to take around six months. This starts straight away and involves completing various modules through supported sessions at work and some self-learning each week. It’ll be great to pick up an extra qualification which will enable to be a ‘forensic nurse’, something I wasn’t able to do back in the UK. 

I finished my shift at 16:30, and having forgotten cash and my bus pass decided to make the most of the nice weather and walk home, 1 hour 45 mins in total. I enjoyed the walk but I certainly won’t be doing that every day! I did however buy a second-hand bike after work, which needs a little bit of tidying up but will be ready to cycle to work next week. All in all I’m pleased to say that it was a fairly pleasant first day. 


Wednesday 5 September 2018

The Three-Month Vacation Nears Its End

Beautiful Byron Bay
Having last worked on the 1st of June, it is now just over three months since I worked a shift. I am due to start my new job on the 10th September, and having been out of the habit of work and routine for so long, I am dreading how I am going to cope! I went in to the hospital two days ago to meet with a HR representative in order to complete a heap of forms and sign my contract. I was very surprised to be given a 'welcome to work' pack, consisting of Tim-Tams, Vegemite, sun cream, note pads, and various other bits and bobs. Not only that, but my workplace induction will place in the same week I start work - now that's a novelty! There is a little amount of excitement - very deep down admittedly - and hopefully it'll be a positive experience from the start.

This week has consisted of lots of tedious tasks which I like to call 'life admin'. Things that need to get done but I like to keep putting off! Today I have been at the library (unfortunately you are limited to two hours per day on the computers) doing eLearning for the new job. This consisted of a fairly basic online module on outcome measures and patient rating scales (must remember that patients here are referred to as 'consumers'), and fortunately are mostly similar to tools used in the UK.

I find it a little odd that the facility I will be working at offers the choice of wearing your own clothes, or purchasing a uniform. Surely the point of a uniform is that everyone wears the same? Either way, I've decided to opt for the uniform in order to save the bother of buying a whole new work wardrobe and having to think about what to wear each day. You are allocated a voucher of $400 to pick what you like from a selection of shorts, trousers, shirts or polo shirts, or tunics. You can even order yourself a true Aussie-style canvas hat! I'll be skipping the hat - I'm not ready for that just yet!

I joined the gym at the end of last week, but had been waiting for a gym induction to be able to use the facilities. It's been two months since I last stepped into a gym so it'll be nice to get back to exercising and getting those endorphins flowing, and hopefully will be another way to meet like-minded people. As a bonus, the leisure centre has both and indoor and outdoor pools, so come Summer-time the outdoor pool will be a delight! They also run a running club on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6am. I've really missed running but have found it diffiuclt to find adequate running routes, so maybe this will be a good (and safe) option.

I am feeling rather stressed about the prospect of commuting to work at the moment. I've weighed up my options, and decided that buying a car will be fairly pointless here in Brunswick; you can walk everywhere you need to or use public transport, so the costs will far outweigh the benefits. In fact, I've actually enjoyed how much I've needed to walk, and realise how lazy I had gotten at home, driving the 2 minutes down the road to Tesco instead of walking, or driving to the gym for ease. Anyway, the drive to work would be around 15-20 minutes, however there is always heavy traffic on those routes and so public transport would be easier. The downside with working shifts however, is that they will be starting and ending at funny times, quite often when there are transport delays or replacement services. The final option is to cycle. I have no problems with cycling, but am not very confident at cycling on the roads. However, there are plenty of second-hand bikes available locally, the route will take no more than 25 minutes, and apart from the initial outlay for a bike, the transport will be free. I've therefore lined up a few bikes to try out tomorrow and hopefully this will result in me being sorted for work. I've got to get over my cycling fear! It'll be much nicer to be able to leave work the minute I finish, and get home to make the most of my 15:30 finishes, as opposed to waiting around for public transport. Not only that, but it would involve a 20-minute walk from the hospital to the train station, on top of the journey.

I'm a bit of a one for leaving things until the last minute, and have booked to go away to the Mornington Peninsula from Thursday to Sunday, with four others girls from the UK who are all nurses. I must say, I can't really stand Facebook, but it has been a Godsend for meeting people, and it will be great to spend time with some fellow nurses. We will be visiting the hot springs at Mornington, going out for dinner, celebrating the birthday of one of the girls, and spending some time relaxing. The only downside is arriving back Sunday afternoon doesn't give me a great deal of time to prepare for work, but I couldn't say no to one final trip before I get back on the grind! I've been blowing money like it's been going out of fashion, but with three months off work I feel it would be criminal not to make the most of exploring Australia and enjoying my time. Fortunately most people get paid every fortnight in Australia, so it won't feel like such a long time before I get to replenish the (drinking) funds!
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