" What I love about my role at Peter Mac @ Home is the relationships I’ve built with patients. I consider getting to know them and their families an honour. "
MAY 2022: ELIZABETH CAMPBELL - PETER MAC @ HOME NURSE
I was born in the UK and came to Australia as a £10 POM at the age of nine, the eldest of six children. Nowadays, I am married with two adult children, my son still living with us at home. Outside of nursing I do doggie day care a couple of days a week for my daughter’s two sausages, Arnold and Alfie. I am also supporting my frail 90-year-old Mum to stay in her own home and retain her independence.
I love catching up with family and friends, hosting dinner parties and am active with the Dandenong Harley Owner’s Group, as my husband rides a Harley. We love to travel, having made trips to Route 66 and across the Nullarbor to Margaret River, Alice Springs and Uluru on the bike. We have also participated as road crew with Ride to Conquer Cancer and The Walk to End Cancer.
As a young child in the UK I often went to stay with a family friend who was Matron at the Whipps Cross Hospital in London. I remember doing ward rounds with her and my dolls in the corridor that connected Matron’s residence with the hospital.
My mother’s younger sister was a nurse in Dublin, and my younger sister is a diabetes educator. We worked together a few times when I was at Cabrini and really confused some of the patients, as we used to look very alike! She also worked for Peter Mac @ Home for a while at East Melbourne.
Nursing wasn’t something I always dreamed of doing. I fancied myself as a pharmacist but clearly wasn’t going to get the marks. Then a couple of my friends suggested doing nursing. Prince Henry’s Hospital did interviews on Wednesdays with no appointment necessary. So I went along and 42 years later have not looked back.
I completed my general training at Prince Henry’s Hospital in St Kilda Rd, South Melbourne in 1980. I stayed there until 1982 when my daughter was born. After my son was born in 1984 I joined bank at the Royal Melbourne Hospital working mainly in the Burns Unit. In 1986 I moved to Cabrini and began working on the medical ward there, which later morphed into an oncology ward. I have been working in oncology ever since!
Being a fledgling nurse was pretty daunting back then. You were required to move into the nurses’ home and complete six weeks of intensive preliminary training school. Learning how to make a bed properly, washing a patient and taking observations. As the lowest rung on the pecking order, I spent a lot of time in the pan room. I still have nightmares about sputum cups! Things were very regimented in those days and some of the old charge nurses were pretty scary. I remember being screamed at for the length of the corridor for not making the tea strong enough as a student. In spite of this, we got lots of hands-on experience. By the end of third year, you had the confidence to run the ward, particularly on the night shift.
I have been working at Peter Mac for almost 20 years. I started doing the occasional agency shifts then joined Nurse Bank in 2002 whilst I was on long service from Cabrini. One of the senior nurses Michael Collins convinced me to apply for the Associate Nurse Unit Manager position on Ward 7 Head and Neck at the old hospital. At the time Peter Mac was offering to fund staff to do the Grad Certificate in Oncology, which I completed in 2003. I am so grateful to Michael for believing in me and encouraging me to extend myself by making the move to Peter Mac and doing my Grad Cert. He is the reason I became a permanent fixture at Peter Mac.
" I am so glad times have changed. I hope I am a good mentor to my students, giving them both the knowledge and support to have confidence in themselves. "
I went on to join the Peter Mac @ Home team in December 2005, when the night duty requirements of ward work became too arduous. Every day is different; driving to different areas, giving chemotherapy, performing wound care, central venous access device (CVAD) care, and reaction area care to name a few.
Over the years I have had several memorable patients, but for me the stand out would be Mary. She was one the first patients I visited with Peter Mac @ Home, and we continued to visit her for over 10 years. Mary was a very vibrant primary school principal. We saw her multiple times a week for treatment, symptom management and finally palliative care.
She was such a character, always up for a chat. It was the end of an era when she died. I was lucky enough to visit her the day before. She left her beautiful home in Richmond to Peter Mac.
What I love about my role at Peter Mac @ Home is the relationships I’ve built with patients. I consider getting to know them and their families an honour. They really enjoy the home visits, and I am always considerate of the fact I am being invited into a patient's home. It is lovely to see their eyes light up with recognition when you see them in the hospital.
I love the great camaraderie we have in our department. There are several members of the team like Seana, Cathy and Carolyn who have been there much longer than myself. They are like family; everyone pitches in to help each other to get the work done. I look forward to getting to know all of our new team members as well. I have loved the work from day one, and I still believe I have one of the best jobs in nursing.