When Lois Barker decided to change her enrolled nursing qualification to a registered nursing degree, she not only had to tackle the challenge of university but discovered a surprising difference in her new job.
It had been a long time between classes for EN Lois Barker when she went back to university to study to become an RN. ‘It was very scary, it had been many years since I’d been to school,’ says Lois.
Like many ENs, Lois had always wanted to become an RN but family commitments and financial pressures had made it too difficult.
However, when a bridging course for ENs opened at Wollongong University, Lois saw her chance. She also applied for a scholarship with the Edith Cavell Trust, which eventually awarded her $2000 to help with her studies.
Going back to university as a mature-age student was both rewarding and challenging for Lois. She wasn’t confident with her maths skills, and so studied over the holidays to catch up. ‘Anyone can go to university, as long as you apply yourself,’ she says.
Studying at a mature age also gave her a good perspective on the relevance of her studies. ‘I loved getting the education at a mature age of life. Some of the younger people were frustrated with the assignments but I enjoyed them.’
The Edith Cavell Trust scholarship allowed Lois to broaden her clinical experiences as part of the course – she travelled to Broken Hill and Katherine. During her placement at Katherine she visited remote Aboriginal communities and worked in the clinics there. ‘I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the scholarship,’ says Lois.
Lois graduated from her degree in nursing last year and now works at Shoalhaven Hospital.
She says there was a surprising difference in changing from an EN to an RN. ‘I know a lot of ENs think that enrolled nursing is the “real” nursing, because you’re doing the showers and you have the patient contact. But you can still do that as an RN and can still give that hands-on care,’ she says.
‘Being an RN is so different to being an enrolled nurse. And I never would have guessed the difference was so great. It’s the responsibility. Working for years as an EN you would just report to the RN. Now if I know my patient is in pain I can do something about that, I don’t have to wait for another person,’ she says.
‘I just absolutely love it. I go to work every day with a smile on my face and come home with a smile on my face, even though I’m so tired.’
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