May 2021Read article
We caught up with Registered Nurse, Founder and Nurse Educator Jackson from The Nurse Break to share the valuable work The Nurse Break team do every day to support and educate the Australian nursing community.
Tell us about yourself! What’s your job title and what made you want to pursue nursing as a career?
So I’m really bad at this question, it’s also like the first question you get asked for job interviews, which I’m also not a fan of so bear with me. I’m a 27-year-old Registered Nurse originally from Victoria, but now nursing up in the Northern Territory.
I’m also the Founder of The Nurse Break. To be honest, I didn’t initially want to be a nurse. I had all these misconceptions such as ‘it’s boring’, ‘guys can't be nurses’ and so on.
At the time, I volunteered with St John Ambulance Victoria within their first aid and medical teams, which encompass nurses, doctors, and paramedics, and it was through spending several years within this environment in (often austere environments such as remote music festivals with critically unwell patients) that the role of nurses really began to attract to me. Their central role in patient survival became apparent to me.
Through this, I met lots of ‘blokes’ who were nurses, some who were also paramedics, some in the Australian Defence Force and so on. This definitely made me want to choose this career path. I realised it would allow me to travel, help people, and also open hundreds of doors. As a bonus, I’d never get bored.
What exactly is The Nurse Break and what inspired you to bring it to life?
So The Nurse Break is something I started when I was still studying nursing. I was meeting lots of interesting nurses from different areas and wanted to share their stories, but initially, the focus was actually more about providing information to student nurses about the student experience and career options out there.
I guess the main reason I started it was because nurses make up the majority of health professionals, yet are often the silent majority. I wanted to create a platform to allow for sharing of experiences, as well as break down public and societal misconceptions about the diverse role of a nurse.
We also work in multi-disciplinary teams, yet are often poorly informed about the context within which our colleagues work, so it’s all about breaking down barriers!
What are your goals for The Nurse Break? How does The Nurse Break help you support the nursing community?
I guess it’s a hard one, I’m so busy with my actual full-time job that sometimes I have these massive ideas that I need to put on hold.
What I do know, is that what I’ve been doing currently is working. We’re bringing attention to issues, breaking down barriers and have created a massive community. So, in the meantime, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing!
How does it support the community? I guess it’s a mix of ways. The articles/blogs inspire nurses, the mini-series I created in collaboration with Daniel Delaway from The Archive empowers and excites nurses, while also advocating for more attention to the issue of violence. We also connect our community with each other through our social media presence such as Facebook and Linkedin, which is great because junior nurses, students, senior nurses and executive leaders are all in one spot.
I highly recommend that you also check out the videos on The Archive’s YouTube – they are pretty epic and really are breaking down barriers for unique groups of people.
So 2020-2021 the pandemic hit, what was it like for you working as a nurse, all while running Nurse Break in the background?
So the pandemic started while I was at The Alfred Hospital on their general medicine ward. It was a tense time, watching Italy’s healthcare system crumble and this ongoing ‘waiting’ for it to hit us. It never really did hit us until I moved to Emergency at Monash Health, and the cases were at 700 a day in Melbourne.
Starting in Emergency for the first time in full PPE and not really being able to recognise your colleagues was a unique experience. Our noses were sore from the masks, we were always sweaty in the gowns and dehydrated, but the strange reality was during the initial lockdowns in Melbourne (at my normally very very busy ED) the presentations to ED reduced dramatically.
People stopped going out because it was illegal. People were scared to go seek healthcare. The drive to and from the hospital for a shift was so quick because there was an eerie emptiness in the streets.
Then came the end of 2020 and 2021 and we began experiencing public violence, protest, propaganda and anti-vaccine sentiment reach, was what felt/feels like, an all-time high and the ongoing rise of cases.
In regards to what I was doing with The Nurse Break, I began interviewing nurses specifically about their COVID19 experience. If you want to read some pretty raw experiences that mainstream media doesn’t capture, then check out our COVID-19 interview series.
What sort of traction and feedback has The Nurse Break had since it began?
It’s been growing crazy. It’s almost a full-time job in itself! I’ve learnt a lot about journalism, marketing, IT and websites as I forced myself to not outsource anything to others besides little graphic design tasks.
Our Facebook Page has grown to 15k+ likes and our private Facebook Group has grown to 12k+ members, which is amazing. Our website now gets around 10K+ views and hits. So, numbers-wise it’s great and it’s getting attention.
I’ve collaborated with some great organisations too such as Doctors Without Borders, Royal Flying Doctors Service and other large health services such as Ambulance Victoria, Barwon Health, the Royal Melbourne Hospital and many more!
We’ve also started a Podcast, The Nurse Break Live Interviews that you can listen to.
What do you think should be the priority for the next 12 months for nurses across Australia?
It’s a tricky question because there is so much going on nationally and internationally that affects nurses, more than people might recognise. Across Australia, I think there need to be real systemic changes to the Aged Care system based on the Royal Commission.
I also think there should be more attention to the violence that nurses and our other colleagues experience across the healthcare sector more broadly. I think there is lots of room to highlight the importance of Nurse Practitioners in healthcare provision, especially primary healthcare and rural remote areas.
Let’s talk spare time. If you have any, what do you like to do? How do you wind down from a busy schedule?
So pre-COVID, my life would revolve around backpacking overseas! I really have caught the travel bug and have so far made it to 30 countries. I find that when people don’t use their accrued leave and instead accumulate it, this is how you become burnt out.
My life day-to-day revolves around music, friends, good food and adventure! I love going to music events and occasional festivals, I’m also a bit of a foodie and love to go camping or hiking with friends. I think having a way to wind down and separate your life from your work is so important.
Learning to say ‘NO’ when asked to do overtime because the hospital is short-staffed becomes a necessity, not an option.
Lastly, how can the general public help support the nursing community?
Understand who we really are as a profession. Support us by listening and rallying behind us, by respecting us, by not abusing us and spitting at us. We are just people who help others. We are not heroes or angels. Help us by not calling us heroes or angels. We are skilled, tertiary-educated healthcare professionals.
Nurses work in hundreds of different specialities and niche areas that you’ve never heard of, from aged care, mental health and hospitals, through to humanitarian medical tents in disaster zones, rescue helicopters, warships, air force planes, and everything in between.
Many of us have post-graduate degrees, some of us have PhDs. Some of us are CEO’s, Professors and Academics, Executives and more. Some of us are even lawyers, accountants, police officers and every other profession you know of.
We are all healthcare professionals and our primary role if you could narrow it down to four words is to ‘advocate for our patients’.
If you know a nurse make sure to tell them about The Nurse Break!