After 20 years in nursing, Barb Roberts had become jaded by the demands of her profession and decided she needed to get out for the sake of her health.
She never expected to be lured back into the career that had seemed to be her destiny, but a family medical emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 changed everything.
Her mother was admitted to a hospital but – unhappy with the treatment she was receiving – Mrs Roberts moved her to Epworth Eastern in Melbourne.
She was diagnosed with pneumonia, an infection and a fracture – and Mrs Roberts said the quality of care from the nurses made all the difference.
“When Mum was crying out in pain in Epworth, the nurse rushed in and said she was going to sort that out and ordered some pain relief straight away,” she recalled.
“I just relaxed and burst into tears. Happy tears. Another nurse rushed in to make sure I was okay too.”
At that time there was an easing of restrictions for people to return to healthcare during the pandemic, so Mrs Roberts – inspired by her mother’s experience – undertook refresher training and is now working as a nurse in Epworth Eastern’s endoscopy team.
“All of the staff in the endoscopy team have been incredibly supportive and welcoming. It is wonderful to be back nursing again,” she said.
The hospital, part of the Victoria-based Epworth HealthCare group, will have a dedicated endoscopy unit when its redevelopment begins a staged opening later this year.
Mrs Roberts is impressed with the company’s culture – she was particularly surprised to have morning tea with Epworth Eastern’s Executive General Manager Kerry May, who makes a point of meeting with new staff.
“That was incredibly foreign. I had never met anyone in senior management,” Mrs Roberts said.
“It is gobsmacking. She even paid for coffee for all of us.”
Mrs Roberts’ healthcare journey began in the 1970s when her father set up The Alfred Hospital’s first human resources department, and she did casual clerical work there during school holidays.
However, she had no desire to become a nurse until her father had a heart attack.
“Dad was always keen that I would be a nurse and I never had any interest until he was sick and I saw a bit of what they did,” Mrs Roberts said.
She graduated from the one of the early Bachelor of Nursing programs, and started at Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1995.
She advanced to critical care nursing, working at several hospitals, but eventually became jaded by the system.
“Morale was down, my blood pressure was through the roof and I just felt sick going to work,” she said.
Mrs Roberts instead became a bookkeeper and did some medical transcription work – but she has no regrets about being drawn back into the healthcare industry.
“I am very, very happy,” she said.