The traumatic experience of witnessing her father’s cardiac arrest at the local footy club when she was 17 led to Madeleine (Maddy) Bowers’ burning desire to become a nurse, to save lives the way her father was spared that day.
Growing up on a small property in the rural NSW town of Buraja, roughly 45 minutes from Albury, and mucking in as one of eight children ingrained in Maddy the importance of working as a team, particularly in highly-charged environments such as critical care units.
From an early age, Maddy enjoyed competitive endurance horse riding. Alongside her sister, Maddy would compete in endurance horse riding events all over NSW and Victoria. This culminated in 2010, when she became the Junior NSW State Champion, completing a 160 kilometre ride over 24 hours.
It was these years that embedded the stamina she demonstrated in later life in ‘keeping it together’ and pushing through nursing critically ill patients during their final days.
Upon completing her Higher School Certificate at Corowa High School, Maddy pursued a Bachelor of Science - Nursing in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences at Charles Sturt in Albury-Wodonga.
It was Maddy’s motivation and drive to ‘go the extra mile’ that later propelled her into landing a position at the prestigious Royal Melbourne Hospital as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (RN) – seemingly impossible for a country nursing student to ever achieve.
“After completing my undergraduate degree in nursing, I undertook my Graduate Nurse Program at Northeast Health,” Maddy said.
“I continued to apply myself and achieved my Postgraduate Certificate of Nursing Practice (Rural Critical Care ED/ICU) through the University of Melbourne during my second year of nursing. I was the most junior nurse of the cohort, and it was quite unusual for a second-year RN to be accepted into this course given how competitive it was to apply.
“I was determined to work as a critical care nurse in one of the bigger hospitals such as Royal Melbourne, refusing to let common doubts often felt by country nursing students hold me back, including that it’s hard to get a position at one of these prestigious hospitals if you didn’t go to uni or do workplace learning in a metropolitan hospital.
“I thought that if I continued to demonstrate how committed I was to my career goals by completing in-depth, extra-curricular courses since my graduate year, and then producing evidence of this professional development it would assist me when I applied for the Critical Care RN position at Royal Melbourne,” Maddy said.
Maddy continued to bolster her experience and resume by adding to her impressive list of credentials completing further courses, such as a venepuncture short course as a student RN, ECG rhythm interpretation, Advanced Life Support, Resus4kids, Ventilation and Airway management, Trauma Nurse Training, Senior Nurse Training, Senior Triage training, alcohol and other drugs management at Australian Nursing and Midwifery.
“When I applied for the job at Royal Melbourne Hospital, I was only 7 months through completing my Graduate Certificate at The University of Melbourne and was a little underqualified for the role.
“I applied nonetheless so Royal Melbourne could see how determined and passionate I was, hoping they would also see my potential to be a critical care RN through my experience in undertaking extra-curricular study such as applied pathophysiology in my graduate year,” Maddy said
“But even after all my study, I was still quite junior once I started at Royal Melbourne. So, I continued further study to learn as quickly as I could, completing many courses in trauma nursing, spinal care management, Code Brown (external emergency) management, Senior Nurse Training, just to name a few, to advance my prospects of being able to work in a more senior leadership position within the Emergency Department (ED).
“You’ve got to put yourself out there and look for these opportunities. Go the extra mile to help land your dream job.”
Maddy continued to have career success at Royal Melbourne. After just 18 months she continued to earn the respect of patients and colleagues which saw her rise to a Clinical Nurse Specialist and Resuscitation/Trauma Team Leader. This resulted in her coordinating pathways for critically unwell patients, managing the Resuscitation/Trauma Team and mentoring new staff members and student nurses to help facilitate orientation and competency assessments in the emergency department.
Maddy’s journey was then acknowledged nationally when she was chosen as just one of four nurses to appear on the Nine Network’s popular television series Emergency.
“I think they chose me as I was the stereotype of the country girl who came to the big city and broke through the barriers to get to where I was at Royal Melbourne,” Maddy said.
“There’s a stigma of coming from a country background and country hospitals when you’re one of roughly 20 nurses and then trying to prove yourself at a big city hospital that has more like 280 nurses!
The television crew followed Maddy and the other three nurses chosen to feature on the series every day, for six weeks.
“It didn’t bother me because, when you are caring for someone during the worst day of their life, nothing else matters,” Maddy said.
Maddy continued to have an impact during her four years at Royal Melbourne Hospital. This included assisting with the testing of 280 passengers when the first flight from Wuhan landed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After life in the fast lane for many years, Maddy decided a change of pace was required after welcoming her daughter into the world. This saw her moving back to Albury with her husband and baby.
She knew she wanted to immerse herself back in education, and after bumping into her former lecturer during a morning walk an opportunity arose for her to apply to teach at the university.
Maddy is now an Associate Lecturer in Nursing in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Health Science, where she teaches second and third-year undergraduate nurses.
“When I found out a few roles were open at Charles Sturt I knew my next dream job was possible and just went for it.
“You have to believe in yourself and ignore thoughts of not being good enough. Set your goals early in your career and do whatever you need to, to achieve them.
“I kept taking one leap of faith after another, and every step paid off.”
Continuing her passion for self-education and professional development, Maddy is completing a Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at Charles Sturt University in 2022. She will go on to complete a Master of Nursing (with specialisations) at Charles Sturt in 2023.