Always something new to learn

This month, as part of Calvary Mater Newcastle’s celebration of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we meet Laura Healey, who is a newly qualified Nurse Practitioner, Medical Oncology.

What is a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse Practitioners are registered nurses that have studied further and completed a Master’s Degree required to work at an advanced level within a clinical role. My role as a Nurse Practitioner enables me to not only prescribe treatment medications but also supportive and take home medications. Within this role I can also order specific investigations for patients, interpret the findings and discuss this with my colleagues and the patient, and plan care appropriately.

What further studies were you required to do?
I transferred from the private sector, where I had worked for 10 years within medical oncology to commence my Transitional Nurse Practitioner studies, and I completed my Master of Nurse Practitioner in 18 months via Flinders University. Prior to this I had completed a Master in Nursing Specialisation (Oncology) at the University of Tasmania.

What led you toward nursing as a career?
I worked as a personal assistant to a child and adolescent psychiatrist and I wanted to be more hands on within the assessments and applied to be a children’s nurse. Unfortunately the wait for university entry was too long so I started my adult nursing training in Glasgow, West Scotland.

I qualified and worked within Acute Medical Receiving and Rapid Assessment wards both in Scotland and England. In 2009 my husband and I sold everything and packed our bags, moving to Australia on a visa to work at Newcastle Private Hospital.

What does a ‘normal’ work day look like?
Every day is different and I love this aspect of my job as new challenges emerge as the day progresses and you never really know how the day is going to flow – this keeps my brain working.

I review patients within the Day Treatment Centre who have presented for treatment and may be unwell or report toxicities from treatment. I respond to any clinical reviews within the Day Treatment Centre and answer nursing staff queries. I respond to patient enquiry telephone calls and I also review patients in clinic as part of routine follow-up and management.

What do you love most about your being a Nurse Practitioner?
I love helping people, it makes me happy. The learning within the specialised medical oncology field changes so rapidly with research that daily there is something new to learn. Being able to learn new aspects of my ongoing learning, not only helps me, but assists with teaching colleagues and patients.

What words of wisdom would you bestow on younger nurses?
Be kind to yourself and to others. Never be afraid to ask, it is better to speak up and say you don’t know or need help than to keep quiet and jeopardise patient care, or your registration. Always treat colleagues, patients and families how you would like to be treated yourself.