Today are told to expect that they will have many career and job changes throughout their working life. But it wasn’t always so. Local Sandstone point resident Maria Boland has just completed 50 years of service to the nursing profession. This is Maria’s story. I was born in Cooma District Hospital NSW being number five baby of 16 (living) children and was raised and educated in the same country town and was there until I was married.

Attending St Patricks local Catholic Infants , graduating to Primary School and then it was off to Brigidine High School to complete the Intermediate Certificate. Looking back on this it was a great achievement by my parents for us to attend Private Catholic Schools as my mother insisted on “paying her way” for her children. Nursing is what I have ever wanted to do, I remember as far back as fourth-grade having nursing in my sights. At High School, we would have vocational guidance interviews and at the it was thought I would not be able to succeed in the role of a nurse academically.

How wrong they were! The beginning of my nursing career as a Registered Nurse (RN) was in a country hospital, Cooma District Hospital. By today’s standards, I am considered a hospital-based trained nurse, as opposed to a university, graduated nurse which was introduced at a much later stage after I had graduated as a registered nurse. My first role as a Registered Nurse was in the hospital where I trained in as an RN in the new ICU/CCU unit which saw a conglomeration of patients from cardiac issues, post-operative care, trauma through car accidents and many a skiing accident often smashed pelvis’ etc as the hospital was the nearest one to the snowfields.

Maria Boland

The hospital was attended by GP’s and there were not the specialists that we have today in so many different disciplines. There was a lot of skill associated with the GP’s of the day with clinical examinations and good old X Rays. Reflecting on my 50 years in nursing I’d have to say that we have come such a long way in relation to diagnosis and treatments for different disciplines in all walks of medicine. The diagnostic tools that we have today were not available or invented at that time.

My final role is the one I am currently doing as the Care Coordinator Clinical Nurse Consultant at Redcliffe Hospital through Metro North Hospital Health Services. I always considered myself fortunate that I was a nurse as there was always a job for you at a hospital. Throughout my career, I have also managed to have four children. I was also fortunate that my husband was very supportive of my working as a nurse. At the time there was no Maternity leave so when I had my first child (daughter) I was back at work within 12 weeks. For my second and my third (Sons), I was back soon thereafter also. With the support of my husband who was a school teacher at the time, we would work it so the family could be mixed with work to the best of our ability at the time.

Our fourth child (son) was a little different as he was our “surprise” baby, nine years after a vasectomy. At the time I was working as the Charge Sister at Calvary Hospital Canberra in the medical ward and our son (who is currently in his thirties and a father himself) was known by one doctor as the ‘Immaculate Conception’!!!! We laugh about this now along with him! After some time off, as there was then the introduction of maternity leave for 16 weeks, I took advantage of that. When I returned to my nursing career I decided I would try a specialist area of Cancer Nursing in 1989.

Clinical nurse consultant at Calvary Hospital Canberra 1985

In that role, I worked at The Canberra Hospital in all different areas associated with Cancer Care allowing me to learn and care for those diagnosed with Haematology Cancers & Oncology Cancers. Once I got into Cancer Care I became hungry for more knowledge and considered if I increased my knowledge base I would be able to care for my patients a whole lot better. I was fortunate enough to be in an organisation that fostered learning with a culture of a learning expectation.

That was when our youngest was about seven years of age so I bit the bullet and made the decision I would do my first Post Graduate Certificate in Oncology and applied as a distance education student to NSW College of Nursing (Australian College of Nursing). This was a major learning curve for me as it was at a university level of academia so I spent the first six weeks away from home in Sydney where I stayed at an old Children’s Hospital and attended classes from Monday to Friday for a period of six weeks.

Mind you it meant I was leaving my husband and children for this period of time, however, they were very supportive of me doing this and following my dreams. Once I finished the first block of study I returned home and continued to work full time and continue to do associated assignments etc that was the requirement of the course. At the end of that year, I was required to go back to Sydney and complete a further six weeks of academia Monday to Friday which I did and accomplished my first university qualifications.

Cooma District Hospital

I went back to work full time and by the beginning of the next year, I decided I would also do my Post Grad Certificate in Haematology Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Nursing. This also was done at NSW College of Nursing although the block learning was only four weeks Monday to Friday and then home for ongoing assignments and a further block at the end of the year x 4 weeks Monday to Friday to complete that Post Grad Certificate. The following year I decided to look further afield for learning as I had the bug for knowledge and enrolled in La Trobe University to do my Post Graduate Certificate in Breast Cancer.

I was able to do this by distance education and there were no blocks required it was all assignments etc. I continued to work full time throughout this process with the support of my Husband and family. Once that was completed I was keen to complete my Post Grad Diploma in Nursing Science (Breast Cancer). Once again another year of study and full-time work supported by my family. With that one completed I thought I would see what was out the in the workforce in relation to jobs in the field, I had specialised in. My Husband got on the Net and saw a job advertised at Redcliffe Hospital for Breast Cancer Care Coordinator Clinical Nurse Consultant, I applied for that role and the rest is history.

First-year nurse at Cooma Hospital NSW 1968

I have now been in that role for eleven and a half years and remain there to this day. Reflecting on the past fifty years I am specifically proud of my Academic record. When I started nursing there was no career structure as such. It was not an expectation that a nurse enhanced her knowledge base as that was for doctors to have all the knowledge and nurses were rather restricted in their thinking capacity. Throughout the years nursing has changed incredibly with the opportunity to enhance your knowledge base as far as you want. I have taken this opportunity and ran with it and am very proud of the skill and knowledge base I currently have.

To have trained in a country Hospital where there was little opportunity and through my ongoing study I have had the opportunity to apply and be successful at so many positions during my career including Charge Nurse of a 32 Medical Ward at Calvary Hospital ACT, Clinical Nurse Consultant in Charge of a large outpatient Medical Oncology Treatment Centre including the Apheresis/Bone Marrow Transplant Unit (Succonded to implement a restructure of the Service), Commissioning the Apheresis Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Canberra Hospital Canberra, Commissioning the Chemotherapy Day Treatment Unit (Zita Mary Clinic) at Calvary Hospital Canberra, and Commissioning the Breast Cancer Care Coordinator Clinical Nurse Consultant at Redcliffe Hospital.

I have also been very fortunate to have been recognised by my peers and the wider community during my long career being nominated for or winning a number of awards. Including the Care & Compassion category for Qld Pride of Australia Award and was runner up as a Finalist in 2012. As well I have had several Community awards through different community associations and have won The Annual Mary Potter Award at Calvary Hospital ACT in association with the Medical Oncology Unit I commissioned at Calvary Hospital.

I have also won an award in relation to the restructuring of The Canberra Hospital Oncology outpatient department in Canberra and since commencing in my current role I have received a Community Award from Rotary Club of Redcliffe for Vocational Service in 2010 as the Breast Cancer Care Coordinator. I am very proud of what I have achieved professionally, coming from a country town in NSW and from such a large family the expectations of academia were not strong at that time form anyone in particular. I was to find my own way in the world and that I did.

Graduated circa 1970s

As previously identified I have had four children all have excelled in their career opportunities as I would always say don’t sit in the corner as no one will know you are there, if a door opens go inside and see what opportunities are there for you and work hard at attaining those goals. For myself, I have had a number of challenges in relation to my own health being diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2009 & again in 2016. It is probably time I started to put myself and associated health first and think about where I am at in life.

This is a hard thing to do as my nursing is and has been a large component of my life, however, as one of my sons said to me “Well Mum being a nurse doesn’t define who you are” I have to think about that one. Food for thought!

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