Twenty-four years ago, inspired by his wife who had decided to attend university as a mature age student, Croydon Cole embarked on his own career change.
Mr Cole, who last week retired from his role as Flight Nurse and Midwife with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS), believes there is no more satisfying way to earn a living than by helping others.
And he says he has his wife to thank for his decision to take the plunge, resulting in a 24-year nursing career, including 13 years with the RFDS
Employed as an electronics technician in the early 1990s and concerned about the direction of the profession, he enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing Science degree at James Cook University, following the lead of his wife Jeanette who had commenced a degree in social work.
Mr Cole admits to previously having a misconstrued perception about male nurses.
“It didn’t take me long to realise that nursing is a tremendous profession. I have since had a particular interest in how the profession is portrayed in all forms of the media, and how we could go about attracting more male nurses,” he said.
While initially interested in using nursing as a pathway to become a paramedic, he became interested in hospital work while undertaking his studies.
“Nurses are not always portrayed well on television and in movies. I had a preconceived idea and soon realised it was quite different to what I expected.
“The science subjects (studied at university) including pathophysiology and pharmacology have given nurses the opportunity to move on from traditionally being 'hand maidens' to doctors, and become a significant part of the clinical team.
“In Queensland, RFDS nurses do approximately 80 per cent of retrievals without doctors. This would not be possible without the appropriate critical care knowledge and training.”
Upon graduation, Mr Cole and his wife spent a few years working rural and remote communities around Australia, using their hard-earned qualifications to stage an adventure.
“This was a very steep learning curve for me from a clinical perspective and a great insight into what is required to practice autonomously,” he said.
“I am full of admiration for the professionals who work in these remote regions where they face exactly the same medical emergencies as the city hospitals, but with considerably fewer resources.
“It is this tyranny of distance that makes the RFDS so vitally important in Queensland.”
It was while working in the Northern Tablelands in New South Wales that Mr Cole made the fortuitous decision to progress his studies by completing a Graduate Diploma in Midwifery.
Nearing completion, he came across a vacancy for a RFDS Flight Nurse/Midwife position in Queensland, and the rest is history.
“I came to RFDS expecting to find a very professional organisation and that is exactly what I found,” Mr Cole said.
“However, what made me feel really privileged was the calibre of the people in the team I was part of. All highly qualified and experienced, but equally important, fulfilling their roles for the right reasons.
“We often hear about retrieval nurses being highly-skilled, but the word courage is seldom mentioned. It is of the utmost importance to have the confidence to back yourself to make the right decisions and ensure the best possible outcomes. This could be 28,000 feet in the sky and several hours from your destination, with a deteriorating patient.”
Mr Cole recounts one of his most significant memories as being a request for the transfer of a terminal patient late into a shift one day.
“My phone rang and the clinical coordinator explained that the task involved a patient in the late stages of a terminal illness who had requested that he die at home,” he said.
“He explained the patient may not survive the duration of the flight, but he really wanted to get him home to his family. We accepted the task without hesitation and fortunately the gentleman's final wish was realised.
“This was a defining moment in my career, reinforcing to me the value that is placed on life and death, which is the foundation of our wonderful health system.”
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