Enrolled Nurse and ANMF ACT Workplace Delegate Lisa Bourke has been a nurse for five years working at Calvary Hospital. Since joining the industry, Lisa has become a branch member and most recently a Workplace Delegate, continuing to do what she loves while advocating for the rights of colleagues and patients. We spoke to Lisa about her career so far, the impacts joining ANMF ACT has had on her, and her hopes for the future.
What does your career pathway look like so far?
I studied at Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) in Canberra for 18 months and then after that became an Enrolled Nurse. Since then, I’ve been working at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce where I’ve been for five years.
Did you always know you wanted to become a nurse?
No. Before becoming a Nurse, I had my own business in private investigation. However, my father became unwell so I had to stop working for myself to care for him. During that time, we were often at the local hospital, in rural Australia, and there were three beds that one Nurse had to manage so it was a matter of sort of becoming an expert in my dad’s condition. The nursing staff would ask me to get all the things that they needed while they set my dad up. It was at that time the conversation naturally flowed to ‘why aren’t you a Nurse?’ The staff told me that I was able to do all these things for my dad so I thought why not. I felt that if I could do it for someone I love, I can do these sorts of things for strangers and that’s how I got into nursing.
What does it mean to you to be a nurse?
My passion for being a Nurse is patient advocacy; making sure that they understand the diagnosis, the treatment options, and the follow up care, because sometimes in a heightened and stressful environment and when they are in an emotional state, you’re not really absorbing all the information. For me it’s really important that people are provided with adequate information for them to make informed decisions about what they want to do, and their pathway forward.
What does a day in your life look like?
A lot of running around! Feeling hot and sweaty, especially when you’re working in the red zone because that’s head-to-toe PPE. We’re just really busy. We try and move as fast as we can and prompt doctors as often as we can to get results known and people sorted. It’s a lot of problem solving, advocating, and updating patients on why things take so long, educating them about the system and the processes.
What has your journey with unions been like?
I’m not really a traditional union member, as unionism is not strong in my family history. I had a very jaded view of the union from a very young age. However, I first joined because I wanted to make sure I had my own professional indemnity insurance that wasn’t tied up with my workplace. Since then though, it’s been a very eyeopening experience and I know that the unions are invaluable in the workplace. I don’t think that can be understated and I don’t think the majority of people are aware of the amount of work the unions have done historically to get us to where we are, with conditions and safety and the amount of work that continues to happen to have those conditions maintained.
What does it mean to you to be a Workplace Delegate?
I’m a bit of an agitator, and even before joining the union, fairness and equity, social justice were all big drivers of mine and so obviously that influences my practice and my conduct in the workplace, but there’s only so much you can do as an individual. Being a Workplace Delegate, I have the privilege to assist individual members with workplace issues, and also represent the collective and work on issues. The amount of trust that your colleagues give you to work on their behalf drives you to make sure you’re giving everything to that role, to ensure you’re trying to achieve the best outcomes for them, because they work hard and sacrifice a lot.
How important is it to you to ensure better working conditions for future generations?
Hugely. Especially with our younger Nurses, and that’s both in age and experience. It’s vitally important that they’re aware of their rights and their responsibilities, not only to keep patients safe, but more importantly, to keep themselves safe. The safety factor of our working conditions is everybody’s responsibility; everybody needs to voice their concerns. It’s important to have a conduit where they can raise their concerns and let somebody else champion for them.
What advice would you give to someone about to become a Nurse?
Find your favourite outfit and put it on. And every few months, put it back on and make sure it still fits. That way, you’ll know that you’re eating well, exercising and that you’re taking the time to appreciate yourself.
What are your hopes for the next generation of Nurses?
That they are kinder to each other. That they spend the time educating students, mentoring new starters and junior staff because the effort you put into them means that you’ve got colleagues that you can depend on to do a good job.
And for your career?
To make a positive impact and have a positive influence on those around me, whether that’s my colleagues, the patients, or their families. I don’t want my name to be remembered but I want my patients to leave with the feeling that they were cared for and that they had a good experience in the hospital. It’s difficult to provide for every single patient but that’s the goal.