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RN Hannah Kent shares her experience as an associate lecturer at Avondale University. Picture: Supplied.

Clinical nurse pursues her ‘calling’ in higher education

Twenty-six-year-old nurse Hannah Kent always considered becoming an associate lecturer as her career goal.

But when the job opportunity popped up, and she applied, she didn't expect to be offered the position straight away.

"I was very shocked to hear when they rang me that I had the position," she told Nursing Review.

"It's much earlier in my career than I anticipated – it's a huge challenge and jump, but I love it."

Six years prior, she'd just picked up her undergraduate degree and started specialising in coronary care and cardiac cath lab at the Sydney Adventist Hospital.

She's now trained in critical care and accredited in advanced life support.

Driven by an urge to help people going through difficult times, the choice of her discipline was also about gaining confidence as a nurse.

"I really wanted to be able to deal with life-threatening situations," Hannah says.

"My biggest fear was if my patient was going into cardiac arrest and I wouldn't be able to help them.

"That's why I chose to fully specialise in the coronary care unit; to feel confident in those emergency situations."

During her training, she discovered her passion for education.

"New grads or staff would come onto our ward, and I loved orienting them through their nursing journey," Hannah says.

"And I decided then and there that I wanted to pursue a career in education and nursing."

Her newfound interest brought her back to Avondale University, where she obtained a Master's in Clinical Teaching in 2021.

Today, she looks at the 20-odd faces of first-year students in a classroom aspiring to become nurses.

She continues working part-time as a clinical nurse, lectures at the university twice a week and teaches in the clinical lab once a week.

"I get to give the students the theory behind what we're doing, or the body system or the skill, and then I also demonstrate and practise the skill clinically with them in our lab," she says.

As a registered nurse in the field for over six years, transitioning to being in front of students can be quite challenging.

Hannah says the job came with many new hurdles, such as writing assessment tasks and marking.

"It's been and still is a big learning curve for me," she shares.

Her new position also began during one of the most tumultuous times for health care in history.

"COVID has made such an impact," Hannah says.

"A lot of our students have been sick this semester, so we had to reorganise the necessary labs and practical sessions.

"At the moment, we're trying to re-engage them – students have had online learning for so long that we've had to really encourage them to be involved in their lectures and labs."

When asked what she hopes to contribute to the next generation of nurses before they venture into Australia's understaffed and exhausted healthcare system, Hannah says it's about building their confidence and self-care.

She says that teaching them resilience is the only way to ensure they can stay in the profession.

"A lot of senior nurses have moved on, and the ones left are at their wit's end.

"The future nurse has to be resilient in an environment that will be challenging for them when they go out."

Growing up, Hannah learned a lot about the profession and the challenges it has experienced over the years.

A third-generation nurse, she followed in the footsteps of her grandmother and mother, who also trained in Sydney Adventist Hospital's wards.

"They definitely contributed to my passion for nursing," she says.

"They're amazing, kind, intelligent women who inspired me.

"But I also had a personal reason – I feel called to be a nurse."

While Hannah loves caring for people, she particularly enjoys encouraging her students to be passionate about nursing.

She's found teaching to be an enriching experience since she started her position as an associate lecturer.

"It's been inspiring to see them develop as nurses," she says.

"It will be interesting to see their journey from being first-year nurses and learning the basics to being third-year nurses and about to graduate and be out in the field. 

"I think seeing that progression from being a novice to somebody who is hopefully an excellent graduate and an excellent nurse; it's pretty great."

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