“From my heart, I care for the patients; I feel a deep need to help them.”
I work as a registered nurse at Epworth Hospital in Melbourne.
When I finished year twelve in Bangladesh, my family insisted that I go into nursing. It wasn’t my first choice at all. I wanted to be a university lecturer, an academic. In my country, if you’re a good student, you study engineering, or medicine. Usually nursing is for those who are not the best students, or students from poor socio-economic background in Bangladesh.
But my parents sent me to study nursing because they thought that as a nurse, I’d be guaranteed at least a government job, and so I’d always be able to work and survive. I applied for the biggest medical college in Bangladesh. I sat my entrance exam very successfully, and got a chance to study nursing with scholarship.
I did a three year course, and then another year specializing in midwifery. Once I graduated, I got a job in Al-Manar General hospital straight away, as a midwife and emergency nurse. We had a very busy department.
Compared to Australia, we had a lot more births, a lot more mums!
The first year or two, I was still not thrilled about nursing. But gradually, as I saw the impact my work was having on patients, I started to change my mind. You are helping people in very crucial moments – trauma, birth, death.
I realized I was getting a lot of satisfaction from helping people deal with these difficult moments, from alleviating their pain and sufferings, helping them recover.
When I did something to make a person feel better, I felt better myself. I realized that was my satisfaction.
Within a couple of years, I grew to love my job and didn’t want to do anything else.
Then a friend of mine told me she was going to Saudi Arabia to work. It was a good opportunity to earn some money and experience, plus I was young and wanted to see the world. I asked my parents and they didn’t mind, so I went.
I stayed almost 3 years, doing emergency nursing. It was very good being a nurse in Saudi Arabia; the conditions were great, both for nurses and patients. I worked in the emergency department, working with all sorts of patients. We had road traffic accident victims, hyperglycaemic cases, trauma.
I got promoted to team leader and in charge of the emergency department, so along with normal nursing tasks, I was also in charge of the junior nurses and communicating with the doctors.
After 3 years, I went back to Bangladesh.
I got married within 10 days of coming back, and then I started looking for a job. I heard of a new hospital opening, the Apollo Hospital.
Apollo was an expensive private hospital. Most of our patients were wealthy people. Plus any foreigners falling ill while in Bangladesh got taken to Apollo. It was internationally accredited, with world class standards and facilities.
Because of this, they were looking for experienced staff who could speak English.
I had learnt English in my three years in Saudi, so I was able to do the whole interview in English, and I got the job. I felt lucky to work there; it was a big difference to public hospitals.
During my studies, I did placements in the public systems. One of them was at the biggest public hospital in Bangladesh – it had 1,500 beds. It was massive. But it was still not enough for the overpopulated country. All the poorest people came there.
It was terrible.
On some days, you’d come in and there’d be patients everywhere you’d look, lying wherever there was space. There wasn’t enough staff, so often we student nurses were the only ones available to tend to patients. There was a very high mortality, I saw a lot of death.
In Apollo, I worked on the neurosurgical department, working with patients who had brain damage and helping with their surgery and recoveries. I looked after people who suffered stroke paralysis, taking care of them, cleaning, feeding, changing nappies and moving them.
I worked at the Apollo for over two years, and then my husband decided to immigrate.
I was initially against it, as I remembered how lonely I felt in Saudi, and how I didn’t like being away from my family. I wanted to stay in my country. But my husband convinced me. We considered America, Canada and Australia, and decided to come here.
My husband applied to come here to Australia as a skilled migrant and got the visas to stay in Adelaide with our first daughter, who was just a baby. My husband is a librarian, and worked for a university in Bangladesh.
We both thought we’d be able to get jobs when we arrived. But we couldn’t.
I thought with my experience I’d be able to get a nursing job straight away, even if it wasn’t at the same senior level as I’d worked at in Bangladesh. I applied for a few jobs, but soon realized that I needed to have an Australian qualification, for which I would have to study. It was a similar story with my husband.
So the first few years, as we tried to settle in and earn some money for our lives and studies, we worked doing whatever we could.
We did cleaning jobs, worked factory shifts. It wasn’t easy.
I had my second daughter during this time.
Eventually, I did a certificate in aged care, so I could work in a more related field, as a carer in a nursing home. I started working part time, doing mainly nightshifts.
I was finally able to enrol in Bachelor of Nursing at Flinders University to re-qualify for nursing in Australia. On top of that I had to pass International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic test and achieve a minimum overall score of 7 and a minimum score of 7 in each of the four components – listening, reading, writing and speaking or pass Occupational English Test (OET) to achieve a minimum score of B in each of the four components.
I also enrolled to do additional courses in Professional English, to improve English skills and qualify any of these test.
I enjoyed the study, but life was very hard that academic year. I did my nightshifts, studied during the day, and looked after my children. I was very tired. My husband also worked and studied for a new Master’s Degree.
But we both knew that it was OK, this was the reality in Australia: if you want to get anywhere, achieve anything, you must study and you must work hard to reach your goals.
So the whole time, I had my sights set firmly on my goal of becoming a nurse again, and I knew that everything I did was towards getting there.
Once I finished my studies, after 6 years in Adelaide, we decided to move to Melbourne. I applied to several agencies online, and was accepted to work for an agency that specialized in aged care, called Caring for You.
We moved down here, and I started working for them as a carer. It was a bit of a challenge. I’d get the call to go to a job, and would then have to drive there, sometimes as far as Geelong, or somewhere way out East.
As a carer, you do basic care tasks: showering, feeding, changing incontinence pads, moving people.
It wasn’t challenging for me, and wasn’t what I wanted to do ideally, but I knew I had to be patient.
In the meantime I kept studying for my English test to achieve the minimum score for nursing registration. Once I passed it, my registration came through from Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
It was one of my most unforgettable days on which my dream came true.
I asked Caring For You to upgrade my profile, and they started giving me registered nurse shifts.At the same time I got a part-time job as a registered nurse in a nursing home, to help us stay afloat.
But my ultimate goal was to work as a registered nurse in a hospital. So I kept looking for opportunities to get into a hospital.
I joined another agency, Austra Health, who specialized in placing temp nurses into hospitals. Through them, I finally got some shifts at St Vincents, and Epworth.
I did my best to get as many shifts as I could in the hospitals, because that’s where I wanted to be. Whatever they offered me, I took – day shifts, night shifts. Eventually, there was an opportunity to apply for a nursing role at Epworth.
I applied, but they were looking for an experience oncology nurse, and I didn’t have much experience with cancer patients. However I spoke to the hiring manager, and told her how much I wanted to be there, and that I was willing to learn and do anything it took.
So in June this year, I was finally hired by Epworth.
I am part of the nurse bank – it’s like the casual pool of nurses that work for the hospital. So I don’t work in a particular department. I get offered various shifts in whatever department needs it, and I’ll go there to do them. This is good, as it exposes me to all the various departments, and builds my knowledge and experience.
I do prefer the oncology department. Chemo patients are very sick people, and I help with administering their treatments, pain management and even palliative care.
I love building relationships with the patients, and helping them get through such difficult time in their lives – it gives me real fulfilment.
From my heart, I care for the patients; I feel a deep need to help them. I don’t do it for the money. I’ve told my husband before, I would still do this job if it was half the pay. It brings me happiness and satisfaction, and I’m truly happy now that I’ve ended up being a nurse.
Eventually, I want to go back to critical care – ICU or HDU. This was my speciality in Bangladesh, where I was a senior emergency nurse and team leader. I am very confident in emergency situations, I work well when I have the autonomy to make important decisions under pressure.
I miss the intensity of that job and the feeling of competency I had – and the deep satisfaction of saving people’s lives.
But I have to do further study to do this in Australia. Right now I can’t, as my husband is working full time and studying for his PhD at the same time. My children are still small. But meanwhile, I am gathering knowledge and getting more experience. Once my husband finishes his PhD and my kids both go to school, I will do the required courses.
For my children, I would love for them to do better than us. I asked my older daughter if she was interested in medicine, and she wasn’t . I don’t mind. I just want for her to have a better life, and more opportunities than me.