Annette is both a HCA Consultant (in our UK office) and also a Registered Nurse! She shares with us her recent nursing experiences down-under for 3 months and gives her top tips for getting the shifts you want!
Over the winter, I was fortunate enough to take 3 months off from the London office to head back to Australia and work as a Nurse.
My circumstances were a little bit different to most, in that I already had registration with AHPRA (The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) and I didn’t need a visa, but otherwise, I still had to go through the same recruitment process.
Once I got over the jet lag & had my induction, I was ready to get working! Make sure to read the letter you get for your orientation, it lists everything you need to organise and have ready. If you don’t, it may mean that you won’t be able to start working until everything is submitted.
As I was going to be working in the Public Hospitals, I had to have an additional meeting at the Hospital, where I sat their Medication Competencies and did some other online training, so make sure you know your milligrams from your micro-grams!
So here are my top 12 tips for getting those shifts…
One: Availability – Make sure you put in your availability, and update it regularly. Healthcare Australia has a super easy app that you can use to do this called eHCA. You also have the option to be called off the roster to be notified of shifts that come up last minute.
Two: Flexibility – Be flexible! I put myself down for every shift that was going thinking that I would probably get cancelled for a few of them. Unfortunately, hospitals tend to over-book Agency staff expecting their own Permanent Nurses to call in sick, however when that doesn’t happen, the Agency Nurses can get cancelled. Having said that, I did get a few frantic calls an hour later when their staff didn’t show up, so ended up getting a good few hours after all.
Three: Get to know the Hospitals Nursing Staff – I would get a call when staff hadn’t shown up to see if I was interested in doing a double shift, or when ED was banked up to see if I could assist with patient transfers to another hospital. Doing that first double helped get my name out there and definitely got me some brownie points.
Four: Get to know the regular ward staff & in charges – Mental Health is a little bit different, in that there were 6 wards, so if one was short staffed, they would call around the different wards to try and fill the vacancy. At the start of the shift, I would let the in-charge know to keep me in mind if they were struggling to fill any shifts.
Five: Check for other shifts after a cancellation – If you get cancelled, check with the allocations team if they need someone for another shift that day, or even at another hospital. I absolutely hate early shifts, but at least if that shift got cancelled, then I could try for an afternoon. Or, if it didn’t, then I could try for a double!
Six: Don’t fret when you get moved to another ward – If you were allocated to a certain ward, and then get moved, don’t make a scene & just get on with it. I was swapped to a different ward a few hours into a shift several times. Once because the other ward was short staffed – when I got there I assessed what needed to be done – the regular nurses were cracking on with the meds, so I got stuck into checking everyone’s vital signs & doing the clozapine obs where required. Another time was because they basically needed another nurse on the Acute ward.
Seven: Introduce yourself – For the most part the regular staff are really friendly, but sometimes they can, unfortunately, be a bit standoffish. If they don’t introduce themselves, start a dialogue. They see lots of Nurses come-and-go, so show initiative and have a chat with them.
Eight: Appreciate – Appreciate that you are in a different country with different protocols and learn from them. Nobody wants to listen to someone harp on about how you did things at your old hospital before you came to Australia.
Nine: Get Familiar – If you aren’t familiar with a specific procedure say something. Most wards have educators who are more than happy to teach you, especially if you are eager to learn.
Ten: Be Resourceful – Learn to be resourceful. Although each ward may have a different layout, they shouldn’t be too different. Try to figure out the simple things on your own.
Eleven: Answer the Phone – You may not be able to answer all the questions on the other end of the phone, but that’s OK. There is nothing more infuriating to a manager than coming into an office with the phones ringing and people near that ringing phone not answering it.
Twelve: Be a team player – If staff like working with you, you will get more shifts.
Bonus Christmas Tip: Be mindful of all the public holidays during December and January, as many hospitals are in the wind-down phase. This might be a good time to plan your adventures around Australia.
I loved the fact that every day was a bit of a mystery and I never knew where I would be working. It was tough at first until I got to know the bulk of the patients; my first shift on a 30 bedded sub-acute ward trying to do Care Levels was a challenge, but it definitely got easier. It was also nice knowing after a particularly draining shift that I may not be back in the same ward the next day.
Even though I started during the holiday season, things quickly picked up and I ended up having to turn down some shifts. Make sure you look after yourself, nursing is hardcore, and take time to enjoy Australia!
Want to read more about Nursing in Australia? Click here to read How Terrie McEvoy started her Aussie Nursing Adventure or read 7 reasons you need to nurse in Australia.