Forging a long-term career: Nita O’Halloran

‘If you want to be part of a really dynamic, evolving team, come to Peter Mac,’ says Practice Development Nurse Nita O’Halloran. ‘There’s lots of opportunities.’

Nita has been part of the Peter Mac haematology and breast service for six years. She did her graduate year at Peter Mac, but even before that knew she wanted to work here after a placement during uni.

‘Every placement I went to I compared it with Peter Mac, so at the time of application I was pretty set in where I wanted to go.’

Getting started at Peter Mac

But Nita didn’t always know she wanted to be a nurse. She did a Bachelor of Science majoring in physiology first, not having a clue where it would take her. She did know, however, that she loved working with people. So she had a break and then went back to do a Master of Nursing Practice.

Still not sure what area of nursing she preferred, Nita’s first placement was at Peter Mac. Impressed by the team, with their sound clinical knowledge, the way they worked so well together and that they were providing really complex care to their patients, made a real impression.

‘It was very obvious to me that Peter Mac really was the centre of excellence’’, she says.

Keeping up her clinical skills

Nita came to Peter Mac as part of the graduate nurse program and is now a practice development nurse. Her role involves training, education and professional development of nursing staff on the ward, which includes maintaining quality and safety.

To keep up her hands-on clinical skills she still does one shift a fortnight at the bedside. This, she says, is one of the most rewarding parts of her job.

‘You can see that you are making that difference. If you can get someone out of bed one morning and get them walking then that’s an achievement if they’ve been really unwell. From a bigger picture, it’s about them leaving the hospital and going “You know what? That was a really horrific time, but it was made so much better by the team. Without them, I couldn’t have got through it”.’

A dedicated, expert team

From the outset Nita was inspired by the level of care at Peter Mac. ‘From a nursing perspective, everyone wants to provide evidence-based best practice of a really high standard.’

And she says she couldn’t ask for a supportive team. ‘We can depend on each other. And not only from clinical point of view but emotionally as well.’

On the up and up

This is Nita’s third year in the role and she can see plenty of opportunities ahead of her. ‘You could be a clinical nurse educator, there’s nurse coordinator roles and clinical nurse specialists. I always looked up to the practice development nurse before me. It was always something that I was interested in but I never thought that I would be skilled enough.’

When Nita finished her graduate year she had the opportunity to do a Graduate Certificate in Cancer and Palliative Care and she got a scholarship from the hospital to do that.

All about the patients

When all is said and done, the job always comes back to the patients. That, Nita says, is where she makes the biggest impact.

‘What we do is not only providing that specialist clinical nursing care that they require for their treatment, but it’s also providing that holistic care, so taking on board what their fears are, what their concerns might be, providing them with education.’

‘That’s the thing about oncology nursing or, more specifically, haematology nursing, their treatment trajectory can be quite long so you do get to know them for a really long time.’

‘You get to know everything about out them really, and all of a sudden they’ve had two grandchildren and their son’s gotten married. You’re just part of that journey with them.’

‘You come to work and you’re like, you know what? I think I’ve made a difference today.’