Leading and mentoring

This month, as part of our celebration of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we meet Kate Donovan Clinical Nurse Specialist, Ward 4C Medical/Toxicology.

What is a clinical nurse specialist? A clinical nurse specialist is a nurse who demonstrates an advanced level of knowledge and skills in a speciality. It is a leadership role where you are required to give advice and act as a mentor to less experienced staff such as new graduates. Clinical nurse specialists also actively engage in quality improvement and research projects within their area of practice.

How did you attain these qualifications and skills and what led you to further study? There is certain eligibility criteria and qualifications that you must meet in order to become a clinical nurse specialist. You have to further your studies and have a post graduate relevant to that specialty. Therefore, over the past two to three years I began developing a portfolio of evidence.

After completing my new graduate year, I moved to Melbourne where I worked in Sunshine/Footscray Intensive Care and completed a post graduate in critical care. I became interested in paediatrics and furthered my studies by completing an ‘adult into paediatric transition’ program at the Royal Children’s Intensive Care Unit in Melbourne. After a few years of working in intensive care I started to miss working on the wards and became interested in nursing management/in-charge roles.

When I commenced at the Mater I obtained the position of team leader on Ward 4C. I have been given many opportunities such as Acting Nurse Unit Manager of Ward 4C, Acting Nurse Unit Manager of the Day Treatment Centre and Acting Nurse Manager Clinical Resources on a casual basis. I completed a Certificate in Leadership and Management and I have almost completed my Master’s Degree in Advance Nursing Practice.

What led you toward nursing as a career? I was studying fine arts at university and was working as an assistant in nursing at a nursing home where my grandmother lived. I really admired the registered nurses there and would ask them lots of questions about their careers. I knew I would always have a stable job and be able to travel so I decided to change over to Bachelor of Nursing.

What does a ‘normal’ work day look like? It depends on what role I am doing. If I am the team leader on Ward 4C its very busy with coordinating admissions and discharges, transfers and liaising with patient flow. If I have a patient load I will be working as part of a team of nurses to provide good quality nursing care. This can include medication administration, assessments, observations and documentation. No day is ever the same in nursing and that’s what I really enjoy about it.

What do you love most about your being a nurse/your job? There are many aspects of my job that I love. I love being able to work as a part of a great team who work really well together. Ward 4C is a busy medical ward and most of our patients have complex health conditions so there are always learning opportunities. I love being able to see really unwell people get better and be able to go home, and I also love being able to assist patients with meeting their goals of care.

What words of wisdom would you bestow on younger nurses? Always go with your instincts. If you’re worried about a patient or if something doesn’t look right seek advice from someone more senior and don’t stop until you are satisfied with the outcome. Always put your hand up for new opportunities or to step into new roles and start looking into furthering your studies so that you can advance your career.