Nursing graduate Simon Steward, left, with a familiar friend from his hours of study.
Nursing graduate Simon Steward, left, with a familiar friend from his hours of study. Blainey Woodham

Simon steps for wards

NEWLY registered nurse Simon Stewart may look familiar to the staff at Lismore Base Hospital it's unlikely any patient will recognise this former wardsman.

"Most of the patients were asleep," the 36-year-old said of the eight years he spent working as a theatre wardsman at the Base, transferring and positioning patients who were under anesthetic.

For the last three of those years, Stewart juggled working three days a week with studying four days a week at Southern Cross University.

Since graduating at the end of last year, he has been working in the hospital's cardiac and renal wards, and said there's now a big difference in his patients: "They are awake!"

Stewart is one of a total of 62 new graduate nurses who have started working across the Northern NSW Local Health District this year.

In the Richmond-Clarence Health Service Group, there are 36 new graduate nurses.

Fellow new registered nurse Jacqueline Olive, 46, from Coraki, was an enrolled nurse at the Base for 25 years before graduating from the University of New England last year.

She has gone from working in post-operative recovery to "setting up and scouting", which involves getting the theatre and instruments ready for surgeons and scrub nurses before an operation.

"I started here when I was 21, and as an enrolled nurse was doing nearly everything a registered nurse was doing but not getting paid for it, so I thought I should go to uni and become a registered nurse," Olive said.

"Coming back to a new job was like walking on the moon at first."

Not all the new nurses come with hospital experience. Mariah Tolentino, 21, from Evans Head, went straight to Southern Cross University from high school to realise her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse.

"I always wanted to be a nurse, and I absolutely love it," she said.

Karen Roussos, 22, from Goonellabah, is working in endoscopy.

"I have wanted to be a nurse since I was five," she said.

Hazel Bridgett, former nurse and nurse educator and chair of the Northern NSW Local Health District Board, welcomed the new nurses to Lismore Base Hospital yesterday with the help of Lismore MP Thomas George.

"We have an aging nursing workforce and we might suddenly find ourselves with insufficient nurses," Bridgett said. "So increasing the number of nursing graduates is a deliberate State Government policy."

Bridgett encouraged the new nurses not to be afraid to ask questions on the job.

"It's the only way to learn," she said. "During their first year of full-time work they are supported by nurse educators, who have extra training to be able to help the new registered nurses."



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