The job as a newly-qualified nurse during COVID-19

1 JUNE 2020

The job as a newly-qualified nurse during COVID-19

Little more than a year after graduating, 22-year-old Charles Sturt University nursing alumna Ms Mairead Sheehy (pictured) has learned to adapt in a frontline clinical role at Bathurst Hospital in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged me and my nursing practice as I have had to learn new skills in a very short time,” Ms Sheehy said.

“It has been challenging, but I could not have come this far without the skills and work ethic I learned at Charles Sturt University, and the amazing and supportive team I work with in Bathurst Hospital who keep working at their best regardless of the current COVID-19 situation.”

Ms Sheehy grew up in a family of teachers and nurses in the Blue Mountains suburb of Warrimoo, attended Warrimoo Public School, and then Winmalee High School.

She originally wanted to become a paramedic, but friends suggested it was a good idea to study nursing before paramedicine to learn more about patient care before becoming a first responder.

“A week-long work experience at Westmead Hospital when I was 16 was the biggest thing that led me to choose a nursing degree,” she said.

“I witnessed so many things, including seeing some of the sickest people I had ever seen, and coming out of that experience still wanting to go into nursing made me realise nursing was what I should pursue as a career.”

She moved to Bathurst in 2016 to study a Bachelor of Nursing in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, and graduated in 2018.

“As a student, I found the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health set a very high standard,” Ms Sheehy said.

“They required hard work in all assessment tasks, and made sure students presented well and demonstrated initiative and adequate clinical skills while on work placements.

“This definitely prepared me as much as possible to enter the nursing profession; it ensured that I went into my career hard-working, with clinical skills that I could develop, and with a wide knowledge that I was able to grow as I learned on the job.

“Without the high expectations of the staff in my course, I doubt I would be able to learn as quickly on my feet as I do, and I would not be as confident in my own ability.”

Ms Sheehy began her career in a New Graduate Registered Nurse position at Bathurst Hospital, completing six-month rotations through the Inpatient Surgical Ward, and the Paediatric Ward.

On completion of this 12-month contract she gained a position on the Inpatient Surgical Ward full-time where she currently works.

“Rather than being an exclusive surgical ward, we are now a mixed medical and surgical ward,” she said.

“This has meant that I have had to jump out of my comfort zone of post-operative orthopaedic and general surgical care and become knowledgeable on a variety of illnesses to care for patients effectively and appropriately.”

Ms Sheehy said each day is very different, particularly at the moment due to COVID-19.

“We have quite a high turnover of patients when we are a purely surgical ward,” she said.

“But we have a quicker turnover where possible at the moment, to keep people at home and safe.”

Depending on her shift, a typical day involves liaising with a range of clinical colleagues, administrative record-keeping, and patient care including assisting patients to toilet and shower, emptying drainage bags, cleaning and redressing wounds, ensuring infusions are running, and working with the treating team to alter medication orders, or have fluid orders charted.

She will also complete two observation rounds four hours apart and two medication rounds.

If she does not have a patient load and is in charge of the ward for a shift, her day is slightly different; she will allocate patients to colleagues, work with the campus nurse manager of the shift to organise admissions and discharges, and will assist staff with any concerns they have.

Reflecting on her time at Charles Sturt in Bathurst, Ms Sheehy said, “I moved out of home aged 17 and moved onto campus, and the best aspect of this was the friends I made, particularly in my first year.

“I made friends who were different ages and studying a range of degrees, and they taught me so many things, not only to do with my course, but about life.

“Living on campus also taught me tolerance and how to work with people who you may not necessarily get along with – an important thing to be able to do when working in your chosen field.

“The positivity of the staff of the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, alongside their wealth of knowledge and ability to teach, particularly in practical classes, really prepared me for what nursing is like in a hospital setting, and it’s something I am very grateful for.”

Ms Sheehy’s advice to students is, “Keep going and enjoy it, study hard but also let yourself have fun, something I wish I did a little more of.

“Your degree may feel as though it is taking a long time and is a lot of work, however once you start working in the field you have chosen you may not have the chance to have as much fun and meet as many new people as you do at university.

“The job opportunities you will receive will definitely be worth it at the end of all your hard work.”

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Ms Mairead Sheehy contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or

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