The bedside nurse
After 15 years in clinical cancer nursing, Lauren Knight took a job as a government policy manager. Despite the change in job title, the principles of hands-on care continue to inform her work
After 15 years in clinical cancer nursing, Lauren Knight took a job as a government policy manager. Despite the change in job title, the principles of hands-on care continue to inform her work.
I started my nursing career 16 years ago. I was an enthusiastic, fresh-faced, energetic but naive, 17-year-old and I was ready to take on the world. Nursing was a passion and a calling. Something I could never have envisaged all those years ago was where my career would take me.
At the heart
At that stage I did not realise the wealth of opportunities available to nurses and the variety of career paths that could be chosen from research to education, clinical, management and administration. Nursing has many faces but we all start in the same place for the same reason. The bedside nurse is at the heart of who we are and it informs everything we do and why we do it.
I moved into managerial roles early in my career. On reflection, I was not ready for these senior positions. Even so, they taught me valuable lessons about professionalism, integrity, leadership, commitment to excellence and how to build a culture around service, as well as exposing me to policies, protocols and governance. This has helped to shape my career into what it is today.
I have spent 15 of my 16 years in clinical practice. Oncology has been my specialty for 11 of those years and for the past eight years I have worked as a cancer nurse coordinator (CNC) for the Western Australia Cancer and Palliative Care Network (WACPCN). My CNC role was my baby before I had children.
It was while I was on maternity leave for my second child that I reflected on my career and questioned where I wanted it to go. I was unsure about what I wanted, but I did not want to be a clinical nurse anymore.
I could not commit to the role, the patients and my colleagues to the same degree as I could before becoming a mother, but my passion for cancer nursing remained. Confused and uneasy about what lay ahead for me in nursing, I delayed my return to work. However, an opportunity arose, one I never saw myself in: senior policy manager for WACPCN. This was a long way from writing ward policies and procedures; this would mean contributing to high-level government policy.
One year on and I am still a novice, but I have experienced a significant shift in how I think. I have realised that I still have influence, but in a different way and on a much greater scale. I now advise the government of Western Australia about issues relating to cancer care, something I would not be able to do without my years of experience as a bedside nurse.
I have learned that my skills, knowledge and expertise are transferrable. While I have written for government and had professional development courses to ensure that I get that process right, the content is informed by my experience as a hands-on cancer nurse.
This is something you cannot learn on a two-day course.
I still call myself a nurse and I always will. And – although I am not at the bedside in my daily working life – the experience of patients and their families is always at the forefront of my mind.
About the author
Lauren Knight is senior policy manager at the Western Australia Cancer and Palliative Care Network, Western Australia Department of Health, Perth, Australia