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We interview Michael Collins, one of the resident nurses at Peter Mac to see what it’s like being in his shoes. Peter Mac being one of the the most advanced hospitals in Australia. A nurse is a caregiver for patients and helps to manage physical needs, prevent illness, and treat health conditions. To do this, they need to observe and monitor the patient, recording any relevant information to aid in treatment decision-making.

What was it that led you to become a Nurse Practitioner at Peter Mac?  

I was employed in a senior clinical role at Peter Mac as a clinical nurse consultant. We realised that many patients were not able to access palliative care because of the low profile of our service. We had limited medical professionals. I was asked to develop a new model of care called a rapid response clinic aimed for cancer patients who were attending outpatient clinics. I was asked to develop the role of a palliative care nurse practitioner. I completed the necessary qualifications and was successfully endorsed in 2012. 

Why Peter Mac?  

Peter Mac is an amazing organisation dedicated to cancer patients and their families. They are inspirational and encouraging of anyone wanting to improve themselves and patient care. I am surrounded by a talented team of specialist cancer nurses and doctors. Every day I come in to work with the anticipation of learning something new. 

What does a typical day look like for you? 

I get to work at 07:30 before my initial start time. I like to have a coffee and read the patient notes and consider a work plan for the day. I see a number of clinic patients and respond to a number of calls from patients in the community. I see patients independently and with medical staff. I triage and prioritise referrals to the service. On some days I participate in research and provide education. 

 

What’s the most common misconception about what you do?  

The role of the nurse practitioner can be confusing for patients and other staff because of my extended clinical role. Despite my pride in wearing my nursing badge many people assume that I am doctor or a doctor’s assistant 

Could you name 3 of the most challenging aspects of your role?  

  1. Time constraints: Patients and family members have complex needs that take time to consider. It is challenging to maintain a sense of being unhurried with patients when you have a number of patients waiting to be seen. 
  2. Stigma associated with palliative care: I work in an area that requires great sensitivity. Many people stigmatise palliative care as being solely focused on end of life care. My role is about supporting patients to live better and some patients I will get to know over a number of months or even years and I see them while they are undergoing cancer treatment. 
  3. Rapid pace of change in cancer treatment: Cancer treatment is a rapidly progressing area filled with innovation, in order to provide the best care I need to be focused on maintaining my commitment to education. 

What is the most interesting part of your job?  

Meeting patients and families from all walks of life, listening to their stories, learning about what is important for them, sharing some of their life experiences. I feel very lucky to have a role that has such great continuity with patients. 

What is the most important piece of advice you can give to those interested in working in your field? 

 Never stop learning and develop new knowledge from your colleagues and patients. Be kind to your colleagues and more importantly to yourself. Enjoy your work and if work becomes continually dissatisfying consider a change to something that makes you happy 

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