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Transitioning Nurses Stories
Nursing – It’s not all smooth sailing but a little help can go a long way!
Tahnia Ah-Kit, QLD.
"I love primary health care... I love connecting with my community, going out into the community, obviously advocating for health promotion and giving them health education. I find that so important to continue to Close The Gap…"
Tahnia Ah Kit grew up around healthcare. Her grandmother was a registered nurse, her dad's mum was a full-time carer for her granddad who was a paraplegic, and her Mum was a health care worker. So, it wasn’t surprising when she chose nursing as a career. Tahnia, who identifies with Waanyi, Kalkadoon, Ngadjon and Kuku Djungan tribes, was raised in Mount Isa, a small town in Rural Queensland. For Tahnia, connecting with community in rural and remote health settings is what it’s all about.
"I loved watching them help and care for the people in a way that I would like to be cared for. I saw what a health worker could do in their job and how it changed the families' lives when they came into contact with them."
In her first few months as a primary health nurse, Tahnia was one of the lucky ones. Like most new nurses, she felt overwhelmed by the complexities of care in primary health but had support from a local graduate nurse support officer, Sarah. But when Sarah left to fill a more senior management role, it left a huge gap.
At that time, Tahnia had just started working in child health within the largest single Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service provider land area in Queensland and was feeling out of her depth; ‘’I felt like I was definitely working out of my depth and needed to increase my knowledge in Child Health.’’ She felt she lacked the in-depth knowledge needed to fully care for her patients. As many nurses can relate to when first starting out, many within her workplace assumed that because Tahnia was a nurse, she already knew everything and should be able to get on with the job. To top it off, she was experiencing conflict and challenging work dynamics which she wasn’t sure how to deal with. She felt alone, isolated and stressed.
“I disengaged from wanting to be at work… You just don't want to be in that place and in that specific environment… Nobody likes feeling like that.”
When Tahnia found out about APNA’s NiPHC Transition to Practice Program (TPP), she applied immediately. The TPP program supports nurses new to primary health care through education, support and mentoring, and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. The program offers new nurses to primary health education opportunities and access to ongoing support from a mentor, who is an experienced nurse in Primary Health.
Tahnia was matched with a mentor outside her local area called Marie. With over 35 years of experience as a Registered Nurse and 15 years of experience in Primary Health, Marie was perfectly positioned to answer the things new nurses need to know. Based in Northern Territory she understood how isolating it can be working in primary care and rural/remote environments.
"Marie came in the most handiest form I could have ever had."As well as helping her fill knowledge gaps, Marie provided practical advice in dealing with her workplace dynamics. Marie gave Tahnia tactics and a language to voice her concerns in a clinical manner that couldn’t be argued with. She helped her in gain back confidence in her ability and encouraged her to trust her instincts. Mostly, she showed her that there was no such thing as silly questions and that there were supportive nurses out there wanting to help.
"Marie gave me the education to assert myself... to clinically prove my concerns and worries, to show the rationales behind what I wanted to do… Sometimes you need that fresh eyes to look into a situation and Marie always was that person for me."
The education modules helped increase Tahnia’s knowledge in areas that were more specific to her role. They introduced her to family health care and the child health system, giving her technical know-how and confidence to do her job.
When asked what advice she would give to new nurses in Primary Health, Tahnia comments:
"If you are a new nurse to primary health you should definitely apply for the APNA’s TPP program because you just get so much support. You have unlimited education that is provided to you, whether it be from the APNA website itself, or from the webinars, or the classes that they hold. The support and flexibility I've gotten from APNA has been absolutely amazing. Whilst you’re at work look at everything as abnormal and always question “why?’ – there is no such thing as a dumb question."
These days, Tahnia is much more relaxed about her role. She sees value in her job and loves connecting with her community, advocating for health promotion, and educating patients to better manage their health.
For more information and to apply to be a Mentor or Transitioning Nurse in APNA’s Transition to Practice Program, visit our Transition to Practice Program page.
Transition to Practice is part of the Nursing in Primary Health Care Program, supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.