Joanne - Career Change Nurse

Joanne - Career Change Nurse

Joanne is a drug health nurse who came into her career after working in racing, banking and becoming a mum. Today we discuss how she found herself in this challenging but rewarding career.

Hi Joanne! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog! Can I start with asking how you got into nursing?

Career change later in life, bit cliche, but I felt like a calling, actually from a family of nurses and Doctors.

Oh wow! And so what did you do before nursing?

Born & bred in a horse racing family, worked in racing, then worked for Westpac, then stay at home Mum for a few years.

Awesome! And so what is your current role?

I work in Drug health services, outpatients in Sydney.

Great. How did you find yourself there? Was it an area that interested you or did you kinda end up there and stayed?

I moved out of aged care nursing last year and applied for a role with Sydney Local health district, drive thru COVID testing, was only there a few weeks when the manager that hired me asked me asked me would I like to go and help at drug health, as they were short staffed, so off I went!

What is the best and worst thing about drug health nursing?

The best part is definitely supporting patients thru their journey to recovery, especially the successful outcomes, where patients maintain their sobriety & gain employment, have their children returned to their care. The hardest part is watching some patients try really hard, but they continue to relapse, lose their children & sometimes nearly their lives. The job is not hard physically, but it is very draining emotionally. Sometimes patients can become very violent, and I have had a patient threaten to kill me when he came to the clinic high on ice.

Oh wow that is tough. How do you look after your own emotional and mental health when working in such a tough environment?

Luckily I have a very supportive team working with me. Luckily, I have the ability to switch off when I leave work. Jump in the car, the music goes on, I have a sing, not very well mind you ! If I feel I need a mental health day, I take it. Once I get home, I’ve usually chilled out by then, ready for my family.

Can you tell me what an average day looks like in your role?

8am til 11am are our dosing hours at the clinic. Patients who need to come in daily to receive either Methadone, Suboxone film or Subutex tablets. Our clinic hours are 8am to 4pm, during these hours our patients come in for their follow up appointments with Doctors, the social worker and counsellors. We also administer Buvidal injections to patients, either weekly or monthly, depending on their needs. We conduct nursing assessment for new patients joining our program. Some come to us from jail, some are referred from other health practitioners, and some contact us directly. We also follow up anything required for our patients, liars with other clinics if patients need to transfer due to moving house. Lease with parole officers, who need to check patients compliance with drug court, and answer any phone enquires, enter prescriptions into our system, liase with pharmacists regarding our patients who are stable enough to dose at pharmacy. And drink lots of coffee !

Haha wow lots to be done! Is there any shift work or is it usually business hours?

Business hours 7 days a week.

Oh great. So if a nurse said to you they wanted to work in drug health nursing is there anything they should do? Or any advice you would have?

If they are a nursing student, some unis have drug health as an elective. I know there are some courses you can do also, I didn’t have any previous experience or extra qualifications when I started, this is just my opinion, but I think new nurses need some hospital experience first, we do take new grads, but I feel they get to use their clinical skills quite as much in this role and the patients can sometimes scare our young new nurses a bit. It’s not a physically demanding role, so good for those that feel the body has had enough, critical thinking skills are essential, as well as good communication skills.

Great advice. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Not that I can think of.

Amazing! Thank you so much for chatting with me.

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Stay safe brothers and sisters!

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