After a year of basking in the sun, putting shrimps on the barbie and emptying sand out of my shoes, Ben Mullin reflects on the key differences of working in Australia.
1) Staffing Ratios
It’s almost hard to believe, but nurse-to-patient ratios are enshrined in law in Australian public hospitals.
Generally I found it 1:4 on morning shifts, 1:5 on afternoon shifts and 1:8 on night duty shifts. This even applies to A&E departments! Obviously, protected areas like resus and intensive care remain the same - 1:1. It’s a rule that fundamentally leads to safer care, and less stressed nurses.
2) Drug Names
My first few shifts were challenging, even with a reduced workload. Why? Almost all the drugs were referred to by their brand name – even paracetamol was different!
For example, a drug I would give on a daily basis on my surgical unit in the UK, Ondasatron, was called Zofran. With a lot of the drug names bearing no resemblance at all, you have to adapt and learn quickly.
Heading to an empty beach after a night shift is the ultimate unwinding tool and it’s so accessible.
There isn’t a much better feeling after finishing your last night and breathing in the fresh sea air. It is hard not to be happy in the warm climate, with thousands of outdoor activities if lying on a balmy beach isn’t enough!
4) Skill Mix
During my year in Australia, I only worked with a health care assistant once; hospitals were flooded with registered nurses and enrolled nurses.
Enrolled nurses would generally take their own patients and administer oral medication; the main difference seemed to be IV medication. I sincerely missed our amazing support workers and working without them only made me appreciate them more.
5) Infection control
Universal precautions? They aren’t even international precautions!
There were some key differences which I noticed in my time there. For example, in every one of the private hospitals I worked at, the patient bedrooms were carpeted.
This made me quite uncomfortable; surely they aren’t as easy to clean thoroughly. It was also very rare to see aprons. It just wasn’t in their culture of care to use them as much as we do.
As a whole it was an extremely positive experience, which only added to my personal confidence and development. It’s almost like taking a gap year, whilst at the same time you’re adding to your own professional portfolio.
Ben Mullin, ex-Australian agency worker, is now an A&E nurse in Liverpool.