Working with some of the community’s most vulnerable, Griffith alumnus and nurse, Rebecca Silman, is one of the many healthcare professionals providing critical care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On International Nurses Day, Bec, talks about the nurses who inspired her career choice and how the kindness of strangers got her where she is today.
As a girl, Bec spent a lot of time at hospital. She was not a patient, but her mother was, and for the better part of eight years she saw first-hand the crucial role nurses played in caring for people.
“We were always with nurses. Although I don’t remember their names, I remember how they made me feel, from their smile or manner or how they talked to me. Those are the experiences you remember, and I always felt it was a profession I wanted to get into,” she said.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Nursing at Griffith two years ago, Bec has now become the face families turn to.
As a nurse at a newborn intensive care unit in Brisbane, her work could not be more critical, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We work with one of the most vulnerable populations in a hospital and have implemented rigid guidelines to ensure patient welfare,” she said.
Parents have been quick to adapt to the changes, including a new one parent cot-side rule.
“We feel well equipped and will continue delivering a high level of care and support to newborn babies and their families,” she said.
No day is the same for Bec, who usually has two babies under her care.
A shift can involve anything from consulting with specialists, feeding, changing nappies and overseeing the physical and social welfare of her patients.
“Every family and every baby are so different and it’s important to be flexible. We get to know families really well and establish good friendships with people,” she said.
“Families can be with us for more than 100 days and in some cases live thousands of kilometres from home. We may be the only people they see.”
For Bec, the best part of her job is when families get to go home.
“It’s good to know we’ve made a difference and that they get to enjoy the rest of their lives outside of the four walls of the hospital.”
Bec said support for nurses has been amazing in the past couple of months.
“The community response has been overwhelming, people are putting up signs in their apartments saying things like, ‘we love our nurses.’
“Nurses are getting a lot of recognition because we have the highest contact with patients but it’s important to acknowledge the critical work of all hospital staff.
“There is so much that goes on behind the scenes in health care from our specialists to those who stock our shelves, empty our bins and clean our floors. We would not be able to do our jobs without them.”
It was a long road for Bec to get to where she is today. Her mother passed away from cancer when she was 14 and she became the primary breadwinner for her father and younger brother. At one stage, the family faced homelessness.
At University, Bec struggled to keep up with the demands of her degree and a full-time job, but her fortunes changed when she received a Griffith Futures Scholarship.
“I probably would have dropped out. I was burnt out and wasn’t making any progress. I was just trying to keep up.”
Through the scholarship, Bec met Gold Coast philanthropists Soheil and Anne Abedian. So, moved by Bec’s story, they committed to supporting her for the rest of her degree.
This invaluable support opened the door for Bec’s education and career.
“I still pinch myself when I think about it. I can’t believe I’m in the situation I’m in now. It’s like winning the lotto but better because I get to do what I love and help others. I wouldn’t be where I am without it.”
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