Family bonds in Ireland
I grew up in Dublin, Ireland. I was the eldest of four children, with two wonderful parents and an incredible supportive extended family. My grandparents on both sides of my family have always been the centre stone of our life.
I have very fond memories of them – from the special ‘almond finger’ biscuits that were bought for Nana’s visits on Fridays, to my granny Jo’s amazing cooking (her pavlova the best ever) and my granddad Dan’s handywork in the shed, finding ways to fix things others thought were fit for the bin.
Through the generations, the men in my family have served their time being involved in the production of ‘Guinness’ in Dublin. Mum spent fifteen years dedicated to raising us and the vast majority of children from our street. When we were all grown up she went back to college and now works as the coordinator of elective theatre admissions in a large children’s hospital in Ireland.
My family home was an open door, filled with love and life through the generations and the extended community around us.
Where am I going? Schooling in Donegal.
I wasn’t really sure what to do after school. I wanted to do nursing but was weighing up between accounting and nursing.
My inspiration for being a nurse came from my mother’s best friend. She was a nurse and I thought I liked the sound of it. I remember Dad saying “you’re picking a tough one” – but I did always like a challenge.
Schooling in Ireland it’s a bit different from here, the offers for places in university come out in rounds. We didn’t know that there was a third round of places offered so by the skin of my teeth I got into nursing.
It actually was a very strange sequence of events, I remember receiving the phone call on a Friday afternoon from a lady saying: “Ms Dunne we have a place to offer you in our Nursing Degree in Letterkenny and it commences Monday. You need to decide right now if you want this place or not because I have 50 names on this list and it’s Friday!”
I still remember saying, “sorry, where is that?”. She replied “Donegal” (which is a four hour drive away, so in Irish terms the other side of the country!) . I turned to Dad and said, “can I go to College in Donegal? and I need to be there by Monday?” and as cool as anything he said say yes. That night we packed up my things and headed off to Donegal the next day. We found somewhere for me to stay and the adventure began.
Learning Quickly at Nursing School
Nursing school in Ireland was tough, there where high standards both academically and clinically and we were held accountable every step of the way. We worked very hard and, to be honest, fear was present a lot of the time. This was especially on clinical placement, we were the juniors and there to learn so there was no standing back, but now when I look back it moulded us.
I learned to question the “why” behind everything. This was because if you couldn’t answer the ‘why’ when you were doing something, then you would have a lot to answer for to the sister in charge.
It was ingrained in us that our number one focus as nurses was advocating for our patients. This often meant getting out of our own way, overcoming our own fears of not knowing or being criticised because at the end of the day that was our role and we took it seriously.
Our training was structured differently to how it is in Australia, our graduate year was incorporated into our degree so we worked for 12 months on a reduced wage with responsibility and structured support. It wasn’t easy, but nothing worth doing ever is and I am truly grateful for having the opportunity.
Working in Ireland
My first role after my grad-year equivalent, was in a residential aged care facility. I always loved caring for other people. When I first got into nursing, I thought paediatrics nursing was where I would like to end up but that quickly changed to the other end of the spectrum.
While training, I discovered that caring for older people was where my passion were. It is a highly complex area to work in as a nurse, I quickly learned that I had to have knowledge in so many areas – from optimising high standard behavioural management strategies for our residents with dementia to acute wound management to managing chronic heart failure to organising surprise 90th birthday parties.
It’s funny at the time I remember the comments ‘now don’t get stuck in aged care, you need to go out and get real ‘acute’ experience’ and I remember thinking I knew that experience was good but I loved this industry so why did I have to leave this industry if this was where I wanted to be?
But I listened to the advice and got a job in an acute ward in a hospital in Dublin. It was a diverse place to work we had a high dependency/post ICU wing, with 5 single rooms (the only single rooms in the hospital at the time) primarily used for patients who were dying and also 16 beds for geriatric/dementia care. As it sounds, it was an intense environment and this was also at the same time as the financial crisis has hit Ireland so resources were cut.
But we managed, we learned how to be extremely resourceful and we learned the core value of teamwork. We would cry, laugh and be frustrate together but we also had each others back, we worked together, and we would have fun as often as we could.
I remember there was a little lady who had no family or friends and it was Christmas time so a few of us bought her some decorations, and Christmas music, new pjs and body cream and the joy we got from pampering her amongst the chaos, is what I remember.
With the elderly, I found that this cohort of patients often had no one, often are so lost to what was actually going on when in hospital, that caring for older people was an area of healthcare that wasn’t very appealing to nurses, but for me it was the essence of what nursing was all about. Hearing their life stories, the things that they sacrificed for our generation and the difference you could make as a nurse in their lives was what became my inspiration.
Passion for Palliative Care
I wanted to work in Palliative Care. I had been fortunate to have had an extraordinary experience during my training, working in a small 9 bed Palliative Care Unit in Donegal. This unit relied heavily on the charity donations of the community, staff were paid through the public health care system but from memory the rest of the funding relied on community donations.
It was a fantastic place, the service and experience that patients and their families received was second to none and the community were aware and supported the good work in every way that they could.
When I started to look into getting a job in palliative care in Dublin it was particularly difficult as there was an embargo on jobs due to the recession, but also what I found was I couldn’t get a job in palliative care in Dublin at the time without a postgraduate qualification and then I couldn’t enrol in a postgraduate course in palliative care without a job in the specialty.
That was when I decided to come to Australia to see what the land of opportunities had in stall for me.
The Big Move
I came to Australia in 2010 and I was fortunate to have arrived the same day that a group of girls that I knew from working in Dublin. We created a little mini family for ourselves out here. Having a network of people out here made it so much easier. The following year my brother and his family followed me here. I was never truly alone.
I had organised everything that I needed for my nursing registration prior to coming out which meant I could work straight away. It took me about 9 months in total to complete the process of getting my registration from start to finish.
I am very grateful for the amazing career opportunities that I have had. It has surpassed my exceptions immensely. I had my mind set on getting a job in a Palliative Care Unit and I did. Within a week of being in Melbourne I was working agency nursing in a Palliative Care Unit and was offered sponsorship soon after. It felt like a dream come true.
My experience while being involved in the speciality of Palliative Care has given me life skills and an insight into the essence of life that I am grateful for every day. Palliative Care embodies for people the question ‘What is important to you?’ and then as a united team we work together in facilitating that to the best of our ability.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to work in the private and public healthcare systems, residential aged care and in the community setting. I have enjoyed roles in leadership, education, research, clinical care provision, facilitating the integration of palliative care to over a dozen Residential Aged Care Facilities and most recently in a large public hospital as a Clinical Nurse Consultant in Palliative Care.
Change in career path
Now I am a Mindset Development Consultant and the Founder of Spritz Mindset. Spritz Mindset provides a support network and mentorship program that ‘Empowers people to Spritz their Lives’, meaning I help people who want to get more out of life get crystal clear on what they really want, reach their potential and create the habits to sustain this positive transformation longterm.
After unfortunately seeing too many people living and dying with unfinished business, dreams undiscovered, it made me think about what is really getting in our way and what I found was that it came down to people’s mindsets.
I realised that my efforts as a passionate health professionals determined to improve the patient experience on a large scale were (without me being consciously aware at the time) hindered due to limiting elements of my mindset also. These realisations made me think about how valuable developing and expanding people’s mindsets truly would be, not only in people’s personal and professionals life but also in the industry as a whole.
I am so fortunate every day to empower and support people ‘into the driving seat of life’, and teach people that regardless of what is happening around them that they can still stay in charge of themselves, their results and their lives.
For me the best part of my job has always been asking people ‘What Do You Really Want To Get Out Of Your Life?’ the only difference now is that the people I am helping are fortunate enough to be able to seize the opportunity and not wait until it is too late.
For everyone thinking that they want to seize the opportunity and get in the driving seat of life visit my website www.spritzmindset.com to learn about how my program can empower you.