Meet a Graduate: Chris Swenson

Earlier this year, a thousand new faces commenced their clinical careers across multiple Monash Health campuses. Christopher (Chris) Swenson is one of them and has been working as a Graduate Nurse since early February.

Like many recent graduates, Chris started his Bachelor of Nursing at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, Chris had supportive networks and held a Registered Undergraduate Student of Nursing (RUSON) role to enhance his studies.

“I started with Monash Health in June 2021 as a RUSON and a COVID-19 Swabber with the South East Public Health Unit (SEPHU).

“Over time, the pandemic pushed Nurses back into the hospital. So RUSONs were still at the sites and at times we got to be Tent Leads, which helped to develop those clinical leadership and delegation skills. I did a bit of both for about 6 months.

“After, I was transferred to Casey Hospital. It was very exciting, I was a bit nervous. It was the first time working with COVID-positive patients.

“I came over with a few of the other RUSONs that I worked with at the testing sites and we were all a bit shocked at how sick some of our patients got.

“Being a RUSON, you are that support person for the nurses on the ward from assisting and performing washes, attend call bells, complete vital signs and blood sugar monitoring.

“It was very rewarding. And getting good feedback from your patients is always good to hear.”

By the end of his studies, Chris was working as a RUSON in Ward C at Casey and has continued there as a Graduate Nurse for his first rotation.

“Here on Ward C, we are Medical/Surgical. Our ward at times does care for patients on the end of life pathway as well.

“Medical/Surgical is a great first rotation as you get to see an array of medical and surgical presentations and get those fundamental clinical skills down pat such as medication administration and time management.

“Being a RUSON here previously, helped me learn the ward, the staff and our common presentations. The Nursing Team that I get to work alongside each day caring for our patients is awesome. We are all like one big supportive family, which is super beneficial as a graduate. when you’re, straight out of university.

“I had my first Medical Emergency Team (MET) call yesterday as a graduate… And I had that realisation that I’m the nurse now, not the student.

“It was theory and practice coming together.

“It was difficult to practice all of those clinical skills within the scope of a Registered Nurse when you’d only done it once at university.”

Chris initially considered becoming a police officer and working in emergency services and paramedicine. The idea to pursue Nursing as a profession grew on him, thanks to his placement and RUSON experiences. Chris’ personal connections to the healthcare industry also helped shape his career choices.

“My dad is a pathologist… My twin brother has cerebral palsy. He was a patient at Monash Health as well. So during childhood we always used to go to the hospital.

“In year 10, I had work experience at an aged care facility. I did 2 weeks in aged care at a dementia unit. So I got to see how the nurses ran the ward, how they cared for the residents and I thought ‘oh! Interesting.’

“I did Emergency Department (ED), Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Cardiac Care Unit placements; all those critical care areas. And that really got me hooked into nursing.

“I really like helping people when they need it.”

Chris is looking forward to finishing his graduate program and has a few goals in mind.

“I want to stay with Monash Health and go into clinical education. I want to focus on education for undergraduate students. Our educators here at Monash Health are really supportive of us.

“Our Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) here, Jenny Docherty is very supportive of staff development and encourages us to pursue our own career goals.

“I was thinking of doing Transition to Specialty Practice in ICU next year. Which is competitive.”

For a person in his early 20s, Chris has gained a lot of experience already, and shares a few words of advice for other nursing student progress towards commencement of their Graduate year.

“Undergraduate Students should get into the RUSON program because that builds you up so you have your fundamental nursing skills perfected, like observations, activities of daily living (ADLs) and time management.

“One of the great things about being a RUSON, is being able to observe and learn in real time. For example in a MET call, you might get all the equipment ready for a Venous Blood Gas (VBG) or for an intravenous (IV) cannular insertion. So you really got to put the theory into practice. It was really good exposure.

“Because Monash Health is a large health service, there’s heaps of opportunities to go into specialty areas.”

To Chris, our commencing graduates and interns, welcome to Monash Health! We are delighted to have you join us and take your first steps in your professional clinical careers, we’re here to help and smooth the transition path as much as possible.

We encourage all Monash Health employees and volunteers to act with kindness and patience towards our new starters and remember what it was like in your first days and weeks.

Approved by Professor Katrina Nankervis, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Executive Director, Nursing and Midwifery


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