Hello! G’Day! Howzitgarn? Please accept my many apologies for such a long absence between blog entries! I am sitting at a cafe called Red Dog cafe in the Todd Street Mall in Alice Springs. The weather has been really weird the past few days with drizzle, a few thunderstorms and rain! But let’s start back to when we were in Darwin!
We arrived in Darwin on the 10th October. My graduation ceremony for my Bachelor of Nursing was held on 12th October at the Darwin Convention Centre. I have to say, Charles Darwin University really made it a very special event for everyone and I felt so proud to be amongst a group of students who had made so many sacrifices and worked so hard to be there in their gowns and mortarboards.
I wore my beads made by a lady in the remote Aboriginal community of Canteen Creek. It was a reminder and a symbol of where I had come from, where I want to be and the people I want to serve and care for as a nurse.
The two parts I felt teary were when the doctors were given their degrees and called ‘Dr’ for the first time and when the people were receiving their Certificates; the tradesmen who had taken time off work, still dressed in their work boots, shorts and hi-vis shirts wrapped in a black gown and looking so proud of themselves. The people who had worked hard to learn English as their second, or third, or fourth language. The one and only recipient, a female, who had gained her certificate in metal fabricating!
Everyone receiving their qualifications on that day were from different socio-economic backgrounds, different families, different abilities but everyone had achieved what they set out to achieve regardless of whether it was a Certificate 1 or a doctorate. We were all in the same big room shaking the hand of the university Chancellor and feeling really damn proud of ourselves and each other.
My Mum came all the way up to Darwin from Albany and along with Tim, my brother Simon (who lives in Darwin) rearranged his work to be there to see me accept my degree; even though that meant he had to work longer to make up the time. I was so thrilled and proud to have them there with me on that day and very thankful they were able to come. I looked up at them after I accepted my degree and saw all three looking down at me with pride; an amazing feeling.
It was a long arduous journey to get my Bachelor of Nursing degree. There were many sleepless nights full of anxiety and self-deprecation. Mornings of clinical placements where I was in tears and wishing I had never started studying! But I had immense support from family and friends and I am now at the beginning of my next journey.
Last year, when I was up in Darwin for my clinical training block, I stayed with my brother and his family and made a promise to my sister-in-law that once Tim and I got to Darwin for my graduation ceremony (what seemed like a looooong way away!) we would sip champagne and laugh about how stressed out I was! So Katie, Tim, Mum and I floated around in their swimming pool, sipping champagne and I couldn’t believe I was finished!!
The champagne pool!
Milla the beautiful girl
I wish I could say the rest of our stay in Darwin was as fabulous, however over the course of a few days I developed a tickling cough and on the Sunday, put myself to bed just after lunch where the cough quickly escalated into a raging fever, headaches and general malaise. I was as sick as a dog for days and couldn’t leave the granny flat bedroom where we were staying. Tim caught it off me and a few days later developed the same miserable symptoms. We both were in quarantine for just under a week until we felt slightly better to emerge and plan our trip down to Alice Springs! It was the worst flu-type illness I remember having and we were both feeling extremely worse for wear!
I bought a car in Darwin so on Friday 19th October, Tim and I planned to drive to Mataranka then Tennant Creek then Alice Springs. And that we did. Dosing up on Sudafed and cough mixture, we made the long journey to these destinations, stayed one night to rest then back on the road. We didn’t visit any attractions, focussing our energy on keeping alert while driving to each stop-over!
We arrived in Alice Springs on the Sunday and checked into the best caravan park in the town. ‘G’Day Mate’ Caravan Park is lovely and we had a grassy area with an en-suite bathroom – luxury! The swimming pool was large and clean so we floated around in it to escape the heat. Before long we were joined by a few people who live at the caravan park, 2 of them nurses! One was even a mental health nurse! So we had a lot to chat about and in true territorian fashion, they were quick to invite Tim and I on their social occasions and welcomed us to Central Australia. We are keeping in touch with them and hope to attend lawn bowls this Thursday!
Unfortunately the heat was too much to bear living out of a camper trailer so Tim and I bit the bullet and checked into a furnished apartment until we can move into our little rental house early November.
I have full time work which I start this Thursday until my graduate program starts in late March. Tim is taking it easy and looking at his options for the time being!
I met a fellow graduate student last week and we chatted for hours which was lovely. Other than that, we’ve been getting paperwork ready, viewed potential rentals, a little bit of sight-seeing and generally settling into a new city!
I’m looking forward to making new friends here in Alice and really miss my friends back home. I guess we can sometimes take having friends around for granted and I’m really feeling it being away from everyone. But this is what happens with change and I know both Tim and I will make wonderful new friends here!
So that’s about it for where Tim and I are at! We survived travelling around WA and have made it safely to our destination of Alice Springs!
Reading some other stories about how travelling came to be, it occurred to me that there are lots of you out there in this spectacular world who have no idea who I am nor how I came to be a nurse and travelling Australia.
So this is our story.
Tim and I met way back in 2010 and I moved in with him in 2011. Initially we decided we would like to buy a few acres and a house somewhere on the outskirts of our hometown Albany in Western Australia.
I was working as a personal care assistant in aged care and Tim was (and is) a boilermaker working for a locally owned company. In 2011, I was offered a scholarship by my then manager to become an Enrolled Nurse. Working towards this goal, I also worked full-time while studying part time. As is required for many areas of study, I was required to attend clinical placements at hospitals so I used all my annual leave attending these full-time placements.
Tim and I loved to go away on weekends (or whenever I had a few days off, working shift work and all) and one particular weekend in 2012, we camped at Bluff Creek, a beach further up the coastline from Cheynes Beach WA. Sitting under the black sky scattered with bright stars and a warm campfire burning next to us, I realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in Albany paying off a mortgage having never travelled. I told Tim that I wanted to travel when I finished studying (both my Enrolled Nursing Diploma then Bachelor degree in Nursing). Tim said he would do it with me, so that night, we decided that when I had finished my degree and Tim was due his 10 year long service leave, we would pack up and become nomads. That year, so far in the future, was 2018.
For the next 6 years, I finished studying my Enrolled Nursing Diploma then my Bachelor of Nursing all the while working full time. I spent every hour of my accrued annual leave to attend clinical placements which left me feeling really exhausted and pretty burnt out. However I left aged care and began working in Mental Health, an area I have and always will be passionate about. I was extremely lucky to have a brilliant manager who encouraged and supported staff studying so I was able to attend clinical placements when offered and even travelled to the Northern Territory for a full 2 months of clinical placements in various Aboriginal communities. I had the best time of my life in those 2 months and it ignited a deep and profound respect and passion for providing health care to Indigenous communities. I had wanted to be a Remote Area Nurse for a long time and this placement cemented my goal to become one and work all around Australia.
We set a date of 17th August 2018 when we would be driving out of our driveway and on the next part of our lives. This date was quickly creeping up and we had heaps to do.
We listed all our furniture on Facebook Buy & Sell groups and were surprised at how easily and quickly we were able to sell everything. The house became more and more empty until the final night was spent on a mattress on the floor.
We had saved money and added the dosh from selling our belongings to our travel kitty. I had paid off my debts over the years and Tim had chosen a real estate to lease his house through.
I didn’t have much furniture, having given away or sold a lot of it when I moved in with Tim. However it was harder for Tim emotionally as he was selling everything he had worked hard to buy especially his beloved motorbike, couch and TV.
We had a cat Leila and dog Izzy as well. Leila has gone to live with Tim’s dad and reports back are saying Leila is loving being a lap warmer and spends her days snoozing on ‘Grandad’s’ lap or under his bed covers! Izzy is staying with Tim’s sister until we settle in Alice Springs. Tim’s sister has 4 kids, the two younger ones being at home more and are loving playing with Izzy. We feel so comforted and grateful that our pets are being cared for so well and in homes full of love and attention. Of course we could have taken Izzy with us however we really wanted to see a lot of National Parks and decided it would be kinder for Izzy to remain in Albany rather than having to spend time in random kennels while we are on the road.
So that was how we came to travel, in a nutshell. Of course there were a lot of emotions going on. I had been living back in Albany for 12 years and Tim had lived there all his life (apart from stints living away) so we were leaving friends, family and pets behind, not to forget stable jobs! However now we are on the road, we keep in touch regularly via social networking, phone calls, texts and postcards!
I’m sure many people who travel, both overseas and around Australia are often told how ‘lucky’ they are. But luck has nothing to do with it. Travelling and having the funds to travel requires a lot of work, sacrifices and dedication. For seven years while I studied both my EN and RN I never had a holiday, not to Bali, not over east, not one holiday. Tim and I took little breaks for a day or two but otherwise I was either working and studying full time and/or attending clinical placement in hospitals (full time shifts).
We both had our sights set on becoming free from the daily grind and worked hard to achieve it. Once I finish my grad year in Alice Springs, we will be back on the road picking up nursing/welding work to fund our travels.
I am sitting at my laptop at a place called Cygnet Bay on the Dampier Peninsula. It is a balmy evening and I’m sipping on icy cold apple cider, looking forward to what tomorrow brings. In a couple of days we will be doing the Gibb River Road then heading to Darwin for my graduation ceremony on the 12th October.
So if you want to travel, anywhere in the world or around your own country, you CAN do it! It doesn’t need to be expensive and you can do it on a budget. Just work hard and save as much as you can, you can always pick up work on the road if you need.
There are heaps of Facebook pages that are really informative and helpful. I have found quite a few really helpful, here are some links:
Aiight. Here it is, finally. I’ve been asked oodles of times from other nursing students about tips to study externally and without forking out thousands on unnecessary stuff just because ‘you might need it’. I also swear. I like swearing and swearing likes me so if you take offence easily, pretend the cusses are just latin. Moving on.
First and foremost, I am not an expert in studying, nursing, student psychology, budgeting or even how to study externally! These are my personal techniques which have done me well however this advice should not be taken as gospel. You are unique and will have unique ways of learning so see how you go and always make sure you use resources the way you need to.
Okay, got that crap out of the way. Let’s get cracking. Rewind back to when I started studying externally through Charles Darwin University. After the initial excitement of “OMG I got into uni! I’m a uni student!’ came the ‘OMG where the f*** do I start!?’
Start with Blackboard, the online learning base which will have all your learning resources, assignment details, uploading and ‘safe assign’ bits and a CALENDAR.
Assignments: I didn’t know there was a calendar but there is and I would HIGHLY recommend using it. Go through all your units and write down when each assignment/essay is due with the unit number eg. ‘NUR244 Essay due by midnight’. Go and whack them all into the calendar so you have a visual reminder of what assignments to be working on now and what assignments can wait. You can even colour code them which is cool.
It will give you peace of mind that you are working on the essay/assignment that is due the soonest. Sounds simple yeah? But it is so easy to get worried about the ‘biiiiig assignment’ which is due in like, 6 weeks, and overlook the 500 word post that is due next Friday but contributes to 30% of your overall mark.
In the Learning Resources section there will be all the learning materials for the topics each unit is teaching. Read through these, they are easy to read and contains a lot of the information they require you to know for both assignments and exams.
Text Books: Now here’s the controversial part that some may completely disagree with: Don’t buy text books. You don’t need them. They are insanely expensive, even if you do get them second hand; and getting them second hand often means you aren’t getting the most up-to-date version which the university wants. Pffttt; I think it’s a crock of shit that you have to have the most updated version because they are 99% the same as the previous version and 99% over-priced.
The only textbook I used a lot is the Clinical Psychomotor Skills by Joanne Tollefson. And even then I had the version of about 3 years ago. I only used it to find clinical skills I could use for my Objectives and Reflections.
When you are researching for essays, use the university’s online library. They have thousands of peer-reviewed research articles which are up-to-date and *cue angels singing* FUH-REEEEEEE!!! Make sure the articles are less than 5 years old and are Australian or address issues pertinent to Australian culture. There is a filter down the left side which you can choose ‘peer-reviewed articles’ ‘Australian’ ‘published between 19xx and 20xx’.
And you know what? Use Wikipedia! Use that amazing resource but NEVER and I mean, hand on my heart, NEVAHHH reference Wikipedia or any website that cannot be verified, I’m talking about anything ending in dot com. Because you’re right, you can’t verify things even on Wikipedia. I used it simply to understand the topic and content. The good thing about Wikipedia is that it is written in layman’s terms, meaning you can understand it. But back that info up my friend. When you have a grasp of what the heck you are trying to write an essay about, go to the online peer-reviewed research articles and learn more from them. THEY will have verified information and you can reference them. The main main main thing about studying is you need to understand what you are studying. Of course you could read and memorise then spurt it out like a parrot but in many industries, if you don’t understand why, what, where, when and how then you’re not going to be very good at whatever profession you are aiming to work in, unless it’s politics. But let’s not go there.
Referencing: Okay baby, this is my gift to you. www.citethisforme.com Please and You’re Welcome. Getting referencing wrong can get you butt-whipped in terms of grading. I once lost about 10% of my overall mark for an essay because I added the first initial in in-text referencing. BECAUSE TAFE TAUGHT ME THAT WAY – Thanks TAFE. Ensure you change the referencing to the style your university requires. I had to use APA but many use Harvard and others.
And here’s another awesome tip. Many online peer-reviewed research articles have a DOI (Digital object identifier) number. Copy and paste that into ‘Journal’ when you are adding a reference and it finds the exact article for you. Sweet as.
Exams: Freak out! ARGH! Nah, calm your farm. You’ll be fine. You know why? Because everything you need to know in your exam is on Blackboard under the Learning Materials. Go into the Unit of the exam, go to the Left side and see Learning Materials and read each and every one of the power points and do each and every one of the short quizzes at the end. Those quizzes are awesome and you’ll find those questions will be in your exam. The uni isn’t going to test you on shit they haven’t taught you cos that would be like, SO UNFAIR!
There is also www.quizlet.com which is really helpful to swot up on bit and bobs. Type in the Unit code and it will show quizzes and games you can play to learn. Keep in mind that these quizzes are created by other students so some might be a bit higgledy piggledy.
I also made a page of notes to look at while waiting outside the exam room before entering. It just kept my brain refreshed.
During the exam: Do all the questions you know the answer to. Bang those ones out then go back through the questions that you kind of know the answer to but need to think a bit more. Then finally, go back over the questions you have absolutely no freaking idea even if you were paid a million bucks. Those questions are moot and you might as well close your eyes and point to an answer. It is futile to sit and stress over a question you simply don’t know the answer all the while confusing yourself when you could be using the precious time answering the questions you do know and know 100% is right (or maybe 95% hehe). Often your memory will get jolted by some questions which will help with previous questions that stumped you. So keep forging ahead. And when you have finished the exam, don’t think any more about it because why? There is nothing else you can do. You can’t ring them up and say “I just remembered the answer to question 63! Can you change it for me!” so go for a walk along the beach or meet a friend for coffee and talk about anything but the exam. Promise me? Good.
Safe Assign: It’s a program to compare essays/assignments against ones they have on file to ensure students aren’t plagiarising their submissions. It will give you a percentage of how much is similar it is to other essays it has on its data base. Unless you have copied paragraphs and know full well you’ve cheated, the similarities will mostly be the referencing and the questions or lay-out from the uni; don’t stress if it says it’s 25% comparable to others on it’s data base, it will just be that.
How many units should I study each semester?: This is completely up to you. If you have a family or full-time work or prefer to not over-burden yourself with a full-time study load (4 units a semester) then knock it back to 2-3 units. If you are really strapped for time or the quintuplets you just gave birth to are a bit high maintenance, then whack it right back to 1 unit a semester. Keep in mind that the fewer units you do each semester will prolong the course duration so see if you can do at least 2 a semester.
I also left all my clinical placement units to the end (where possible) so I saved up my annual leave to be able to attend. This also meant I didn’t have any exams or assignments due when I was on placement because I had done all the theory units.
Online lectures/classrooms: I’m not saying this to sound like a rebel but I didn’t listen to one single recorded lecture nor did I attend one online classroom because I found they were as boring as batshit and I could do the study myself. HOWEVER, you may find them beneficial and if you prefer being in a classroom to study, then attending the online classes and listening to the lectures may help you get into the swing of learning. I know people who really liked them so give it a go. As I said, your study is all about how you learn best.
Extra activities: My friend. Listen to me now. Don’t waste your precious time on doing any extra activities that are not graded. They are a waste of time and you get no thanks for them. Unless you live in utopia where all your meals are cooked, house is cleaned, a Greek god is hand-feeding you peeled grapes and your feet are getting massaged by Ryan Reynolds (or female equivalent…Blake Lively?) and you have ALL the time in the world, don’t bother with them. Just do the quizzes in the learning materials which will help you remember the crap you gotta remember to pass exams. And essays. And any other GRADED stuff.
Family, Friends and Social Life: You are at uni. You are studying to get a qualification so you can earn decent money, have job satisfaction and pave a future for you and your family. You will have to step back occasionally to study or go to prac or just sit in your car with the radio turned to max and just scream. So when you start studying, explain to everyone that you will need help and support. Don’t feel guilty. It’s not forever and you are doing it for you and your loved ones. Hubby can cook a few meals each week. The girls nights can be missed for a few months. Real friends will support your studying and not make you feel guilty for not drinking chardonnay at Emma’s place when her 6th boyfriend this year dumped her. There will be sacrifices but they are worth it (and Emma needs to find a decent bloke).
Clinical Placements: Now I’ve only studied Nursing, I’m not sure about other degree’s but it may be similar. You will need to attend onsite clinical placements as part of your degree. Some units it may be 4 weeks, some 6 weeks. But overall you’ll probably do about 5-6 months full time placement. FULL TIME. Not half a day here and half a day there. Not ‘I have to drop off and pick my kids up so I can only do 9-3’ kind of placements. You are required to be at the hospital / nursing clinic / GP clinic at the times they set. Many hospitals have shifts like 7am-3.30pm or 1pm-9.30pm or night shifts of 9pm-7.30am. You need to be sitting in that nurses office at least 5 minutes before the start of each shift and you need to stay until you finish. This is because AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) require a minimum number of placement hours in order to register you as a nurse. If you are sick, make up the day. This is where having kids can be hard but ask for help.
I used to freak out before every. single. placement. My nerves went wild and I would dread going. But once I got there, was introduced to my preceptor and started the shift, I was as happy as a pig in shit. You aren’t expected to know everything when you go to placement, you are there to learn. Be positive, engaged, ask questions and be enthusiastic. Yeah you might know how to take a full set of obs but you aren’t going to say ‘I already know how to do that, what else can I do?’. Do whatever is required to ensure you are providing comprehensive and safe patient care. Always be supervised when you are required to be. If you forget something, tell your preceptor straight away. Always report findings to your preceptor, even if they are within normal range. Communication is extremely important. Know your student scope of practice and be prepared to say ‘I can’t do that but I am keen to watch’. Don’t ever ever ever risk your degree or the patients safety by performing a task outside your scope just because ‘It was busy’ or ‘I didn’t want to say no’. You know what I’m saying.
Conclusion: This is all I can think of to write right now. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. As I said before, these are all from my personal experiences and you may find you study completely differently. I am not an experienced nurse but I am an experienced student.