By MADDISON MANWARING
By the age of 21 Jaime Roessler had worked as an emergency medic on ski fields in New Zealand and volunteered her time helping critically injured patients at a hospital in Cambodia all before she was even a fully qualified nurse. Now 22, Jaime is a full-time paediatric nurse in one of the busiest hospitals in Queensland.
Jaime grew up in Caloundra with a mum who is also a nurse. From a young age, she knew it was her calling too, and never considered any other profession. In 2015, she enrolled in dual paramedic and nursing degrees at QUT and found herself right at home in bustling wards of hospitals, or on the go in an ambulance. “I’ve always been good with people and really enjoyed science and biology, so nursing is a good combination of clinical and personal,” she says. “I get to use my brain and talk to people all day.”
Last year Jaime had graduated with three paramedic placements and seven nursing placements across Gladstone, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast in aged care, mental health, infectious disease and other hospital wards, on top of her work overseas.
During her degree Jaime jumped at the opportunity to travel to New Zealand and work for Medrescue on the Remarkables ski field near Queenstown. Her experience became a physical as well as professional adventure, as she learned to master sliding across the snow field herself to reach those in need of medical help. It fed her hunger for diverse experiences and exploring new medical situations. “I wanted to experience different health care, and see trauma and immediate management on scene,” she says. “It was interesting working side by side with doctors and physios and really opened my eyes to how healthcare professionals like physios could help patients in this situation.”
Just before graduating, Jaime booked a self-funded solo trip to Cambodia, where she volunteered for three weeks in Battambang Provincial Hospital on a post-operative ward. The hospital was a long way from home in more ways than one, and she thrived off it. Road accidents, falls, infections and land mine victims are frequently seen at the hospital, a stark difference to the patients Jaime saw at home. The hospital had just a modicum of resources and equipment she was used to relying on in Australia and New Zealand, and she learned to think on her feet and adapt the way she approached patient care.
“It was confronting: they had nothing compared to us; the patients had mats on the floors instead of beds, they had no resources or money to buy equipment.”
But the spirit of the community is seared in her memory, as families came together to help each other and stayed positive despite the circumstances.
“I knew from a young age I always wanted to volunteer in a developing country, and my experience in the medical industry helped me do this.”
Jaime is now working as a full-time registered nurse at Queensland Children’s Hospital caring for the some of the most critically ill and injured children in the state. Working in paediatrics was never part of the plan and but rather something she fell into after graduating. “I always thought I would do adult emergency, but I got offered a job here on the neuroscience and orthopaedic surgical inpatient ward and I love it. The kids are great.”
Jaime helps care for patients with brain tumours and injuries, car accident and orthopaedic trauma and disabilities like cerebral palsy. Many of her patients spend months in the hospital.
“Sometimes it’s really sad; some of the diagnoses can be really difficult but most of the time we get to the see them get better. It’s really exciting when they get better and start talking more, you can see their personality come through and they get to be a kid again.”
Jaime says nursing such seriously ill or injured children can take a mental toll on the nurses, and it’s important to have a work-life balance and strong support system. “You have to be a really caring person to do this, but you have to be able to turn it off sometimes. At a certain point there’s nothing you can do, and you can’t take it home,” she says.
When children are so terribly ill, those around them do not always act their best. As a paediatric nurse, Jaime says she has also received abuse from parents and families. She reminds herself not to take it personally, as she knows they are going through some of the toughest moments of their lives.
“Parents get frustrated because their child has been fasting and waiting for surgery, or they don’t have a plan or want to go home. Their child is in pain and they feel useless, and they take it out on staff,” she says. “It can be exhausting. You can start to burn out and get stressed, but I think if you’re working with a good team you always have people you can go to who understand. It’s hard to explain to people who are not nurses so it helps to have someone in the field.”
Jaime is happy working in paediatrics for now but says she has big plans for her future, and wants to travel and volunteer again, making the most of life while helping others.
“I think it’s important I challenge myself and experience different kinds of nursing. This industry is so great because you never stop learning.”