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Jacinta’s nursing knowledge & thirst for variety triggers two-dimensional role

People Stories 31 Oct 2023

Lead Consultant and Occupational Health Nurse, Jacinta Smalley, has a one-of-a-kind nursing position at KINNECT that utilises her clinical skills and vast knowledge in two different ways. It was her desire for more variety and a willingness to put her hand up that made this unique working arrangement possible.

A change of (nursing) pace

Jacinta trained as a nurse in Melbourne and enjoyed a varied career with roles in critical care in ICU emergency, recovery, and day procedures. Nursing took her from Victoria to Western Australia, over to England and back to Melbourne before heading to the north of Queensland and eventually settling on the Sunshine Coast.

Jacinta joined KINNECT in 2018 as a casual Occupational Health Nurse at the newly opened Sunshine Coast office, after searching for a nursing role without the shiftwork.Occupational Health Nurse & Clinical Advisor Jacinta Smalley As the Sunshine Coast office’s operations expanded, her casual role was made permanent-part-time, giving her family friendly hours to be present as a mother to her school-age children. While she enjoyed the work doing pre-employment medicals, vaccinations, health monitoring programs, ECGs, hearing tests, blood collection and supporting various onsite projects, Jacinta wanted more challenge, variety and was looking to work more now her children were older. With some capacity available during her clinic days, a new opportunity was advertised internally, so she put her hand up to assist our Clinical Governance Manager, Sharon Marsh.

“There aren’t a lot of nursing roles where you can get mental stimulation and use your skills quite broadly. Initially when I took the role at KINNECT it was quite varied as I learnt the ropes, but then it became repetitive. With roles like emergency care, you never know what’s coming through the door, so adding variety doing clinical governance work was that key for me to keep the interest and motivation in my work. But you’ve got to speak up and let supervisors know what you want,” Jacinta explained.

Jacinta was appointed to the role of Clinical Advisor to support the Clinical Governance team two-days per week nearly 2 years ago. She also continues to work on the front line two days per week maintaining her clinical skills in pre-employment and health surveillance assessments. This ensures she always has her finger on the pulse when advising as she has current real-world experience.

Providing value while learning

As a Clinical Advisor, Jacinta can use her practical nursing experience to complement Sharon’s administrative expertise on clinical governance matters. Jacinta took the role to achieve two things: “I wanted to learn something new, but I also knew I had a lot of the skills in all my years of nursing to provide value in the role and had a vision of possible improvements that could be implemented,” she said.

Day to day, her tasks include preparing and delivering education, writing procedures, problem solving, scheduling tasks, and navigating how to get to the end of a project. She brings value to the role by offering her perspective as a nurse on what a process or procedure is like to implement “on the ground” for the clinical staff so that processes or Carelever system changes, like forms, are delivered in a user-friendly way from the start.

While there can be an overwhelming amount to learn in the clinical governance space, Jacinta enjoys the challenge: “I get to see from the business side what goes on in the background in terms of how we develop processes and standards and how we can audit to stay compliant with new standards. There’s also different standards and legislation in each state to be aware of, and so many workflows and factors to consider.

“I had some experience in a previous role, but being a rapidly growing business, I get to be involved on a deeper level at KINNECT. It’s not something a nurse routinely gets exposed to,” she said.

The most satisfying part of her Clinical Advisor role is being able to provide usable insights for improvements that make consultant’s day to day lives easier:

“I like being able to facilitate changes to always be at the forefront of best practice. I also like having the two roles as it gives me a lot of variety. The occupational health space is very broad but in clinical governance there are so many things to consider when you implement change,” she reflected.

Using her nursing skills differently

With her Occupational Health Nurse hat on, Jacinta has learned how to use her skills in a new way and see the value in her work from a different angle:

“It’s a big shift in your focus if you come from acute care where you’re working in life-threatening situations. Generally, we’re dealing with healthy people. They might have things they can improve on in their lifestyle, but it’s not that they’re acutely sick.

“It’s understanding that you are still helping people but in a different way. For example, you’ve got these assessment skills but you’re using them for screening, not to diagnose.

“The other part is health promotion which you don’t do a lot of in acute care. I’ve learned over time that we do a lot of that inadvertently in just those snippets of time that we have with these workers,” Jacinta explained.

Jacinta also suggests that occupational health nursing is a good option for parents who are looking for flexibility who want to use their clinical nursing skills, but it might not appeal to graduates who are seeking a lot of different learning experiences.

For nurses who are considering a change, Jacinta’s main words of advice are to be prepared to use your clinical skill set in a different way, and some skills more than others:

“Assessment skills are so important, which you get from emergency and critical care centres. You’ll also need to be able to sit and communicate well and provide instruction on what you’re trying to get them [workers] to do and ask good questions to get the information you need.

“Having your immunisation certificate and blood-collection skills are a huge advantage, so the role suits general practice nurses.”.

For now, Jacinta is happy with her two-dimensional role, and just wishes there were more hours in the day to learn, and achieve, more.

If you’re interested in a nursing role with flexibility and variety, why not join us? For information about current vacancies, visit our Careers Centre.