COVID change: ‘Coming back home’ to nursing

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Suzi Hannan always wanted to be a nurse and more than 30 years ago, that’s what she trained to do.

But life took her on a different path and she started work with Qantas in 1989 as a flight attendant.

“I graduated from nursing in 1987 and I worked full time for a couple of years, then I worked part-time as a nurse and part-time with Qantas,” Suzi said.

“Then I ended up working with Qantas full-time and when I left nursing, I had so many people say to me ‘don’t go!’ And I told them, ‘don’t worry, I’ll be back, I’m just going to fly for a while and have some fun’.

“I’ve been very lucky, I’ve managed to have a family, I’ve travelled the world, I’ve studied, I’ve looked after politicians, dignitaries, celebrities – you name it.”

“And I’ve got to make some amazing friends.”

However the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic meant the end of Suzi’s high flying career, after she was stood down when airlines around the world were grounded.

“We knew it was coming, but it came as a shock – to see it in black and white was confronting,” she said.

A desire to help people – and keep on working – sent Suzi back into a hospital ward, applying for a role as a nursing assistant with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse comprehensive cancer hospital in Sydney.

“When this opportunity became available, I jumped at it,” she said.

“There’s such a good feeling towards the medical community right now, really a recognition of how hard they work. I could have easily just stayed home, but I realised I still have a lot of love and care to give, so I got back into it.

“I feel I’ve come back home, I feel this is my calling – I’ve really wanted to be a nurse since I was 7-years-old.

“I really feel now too that, a mix of being more mature and having so much happiness in my home life, I’m a better nurse.

“I’m an optimistic person overall and knowing I can give back and be a part of this world again, is very gratifying.”

Suzi added the worlds of nursing and being a flight attendant were not that different.

“If you’re on a plane, or in a hospital, I see both of them as people being out of their comfort zone,” she said.

“And if you are there with a calm, knowledgeable and caring approach, it helps passengers and patients. Plus of course working with a cohesive team – just like on a plane.

“I love the patient interaction, the fulfilment of this position, helping people brighten their day and make them feel better.”

Suzi is now studying to re-register as a nurse and plans to work part-time for Qantas and part-time as a nurse.

“I’m not ready to give up flying – Qantas are such an amazing company to work for and I know I’ve got the energy to juggle part-time flying and part-time nursing,” she said.

“And I feel so lucky to be at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, I’m really blown away by how amazing the staff are there, it’s really like one big family.

“There’s a real focus there on customer service and that nothing is too hard; I feel I really fit in well there and there are some other Qantas staff there now who feel exactly the same.

“Caring and safety are so important in an airline and in a hospital.

“I feel lucky to be still employed and to have gone back to my roots.

“It’s a blessing in such a dark, dark time. Life is good and I’m loving it and I just want to keep going for as long as I can.”

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