The value of travel in your health care career

K Baxter_Blog

Written by Kirsty-Anne Baxter, UTS Master of Nurse Practitioner student

I love nursing. I would say I’m a nursing geek! I really enjoy meeting new people from all walks of life, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. That’s the key to everything; if you don’t enjoy being a nurse, you’re less passionate about the profession and at times, it reflects on the care and compassion you can give to another person.

The thing with nursing is, it’s changing as a profession. Treatments and interventions are always changing as technologies and medicines advance, meaning… you have to learn along the way.

I originally trained in Scotland to be a registered nurse, graduating in 1998. My first job was in Birmingham in England, working in infectious diseases and tropical medicine. After nine months, I realised that I was not a fan of bugs that come out of people! I went into cancer nursing a little ahead of my schedule of my long-term goal. I had thought I would wait until I was more grown up before becoming an oncology nurse, but it’s worked out for me.

I remained in Birmingham for two years, before moving to Canada, where there had been a huge recruitment drive for Registered Nurses due to Province shortages. I worked in an Oncology/Haematology Bone Marrow Transplant specialist hospital for about three years at there. It was such a great place to work and I learned a great deal during my time there, including how not to fall on a snowboard! I also met my future husband, who was a travel nurse there.

When our contracts were completed and we had had our fill of the cold, we backpacked around North America, including Alaska, before coming to Australia. My husband is from Sydney, so we settled there for about ten years. I worked at a large metropolitan hospital first as a registered nurse, then as a specialist nurse and then as a clinical nurse consultant in oncology and haematology. My husband worked at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

However, after the birth of our first child, we realised that Sydney wasn’t for us anymore. At the time, I was completing a Master of Advanced Nursing in Education at UTS, so we waited until I graduated in 2010 before moving to Port Macquarie. It is a beautiful part of the world, but it is 400 kilometres away from our jobs!

Initially, we were worried that moving to a regional area would mean it would be difficult to maintain our careers, as there was only one base hospital. How wrong could we be! At first, we were employed as casual nurses in the casual pool at first and very quickly found ourselves in similar nursing positions but without the stress of traffic and beautiful beaches.

It’s been nine years, and we’re both still nursing! Now, I am an oncology nurse consultant within a large outpatient cancer centre. For the past year, I’ve been employed as a transitional nurse practitioner.

I think working internationally has helped me a lot in my career. Any time you travel, regardless of whether you are working or not, you open yourself up to new experiences, good or bad, reflect on this and take the experiences with you.

I think through travel and working in other countries, cultures and leas, you become more confident in your abilities and your approach to both holistic nursing and learning. You are able to view situations from many different angles, experiences and troubleshoot accordingly.

Of course, hospitals everywhere operate different, from Scotland to Canada to Australia, even from metropolitan to regional to rural. It’s a challenging but fun transition to make as a registered nurse, one I think we are lucky to be able to do. However, things still have to function effectively; hospitals have to work to the same standards but sometimes the way you approach the work is slightly different because of the resources you have. The result should be the same though. You have to adapt so that your patient still receives the same level of care, just through a different way of doing it.

In the department where I am currently work, even though we’re a large cancer centre, we don’t have anywhere near the same level of resources that would be available in a metropolitan hospital. I feel that through my experience of travel nursing, I have been able to draw on different things, different experiences that I have learnt from.

I have been fortunate enough in my career to hold many different positions within nursing. Each role has taught me something new and has created a greater understanding of health and the importance of nursing as a profession and the direction in which we can provide to our patients and their carers.

Find out more about studying Nursing at UTS

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