Ever wondered where your career in health care might take you? We recently brought together Griffith Health alumni in a virtual event to talk to us about how they’ve shaped their careers in the first five years after graduation. Read on for a snapshot of their conversation. 

Luke Yokota is a registered nurse with clinical experience in aged care and intensive care. He’s the Chair of the National Men in Nursing Working party and is currently working at the Princess Alexandra Hospital as an intensive care nurse, and he graduated from Griffith in 2016. 

Luke says that his first few years were big ones in that they helped him achieve growth personally and professionally. 

“When you’re studying to be a nurse, normally you wish to enter a graduate year of nursing which means you go into a graduate program that consists of extra training and acceleration of your training in that first year out,” Luke explains.  

“I was very fortunate to get a graduate program in Intensive Care at Princess Alexandria in Brisbane and I’ve been there ever since. I’ve grown immensely personally, emotionally and spiritually in so many ways. My first year I was going home at 3am, falling asleep around 4am for a few hours and then doing some homework, it was very intense!  

“But I can also paint nursing in a positive light, because I don’t feel exhausted at all anymore, and it’s become such a privilege to be in the profession. I don’t think as many people know as they should just how many diverse career paths a registered nurse can take. It’s not just acute care in the hospital, there’s community health, primary health, academia, research, humanitarian work, nurse practitioner, GP work, nursing informatics, policy and development. There’s just so many things you can branch out with.” 

Mikaela Seymour is a graduate of Griffith’s Doctor of Medicine – she has spent recent years building her career in primary healthcare and public health in rural and regional locations in Australia and Papua New Guinea.  

“My primary motivation to take my clinical skills overseas was to use what Griffith has taught me – to get out there and achieve something, to see what the problem was and fix it,” says Mikaela.  

“But I think once you’re on the ground you get that bigger appreciation for what’s going on, and that’s where I built an interest in public health. As a rural health worker, you’re very integrated into the community – you’re a clinical leader and a broader advocate for health in the community. You have a much broader scope of practice, and that’s not to say you’re an expert in everything – it’s about having the problem-solving skills to deal with whatever walks through the door. 

“It’s also about not being afraid. Don’t listen to the naysayers, just believe in yourself and if you want to do something then commit to it. Some things are going to be hard. Don’t expect a health degree to be easy but if you really want to do it, a couple of years of pain is worth it in the end.” 

Nicholas Rosser joined the panel from the Gold Coast, where he is completing his PhD in cancer medication after graduating from a pharmacology degree. He explains his defining moment in choosing to forgo the usual route to traditional employment after graduating and instead choosing to complete his PhD.   

“The defining moment for me and why I chose research happened in the third year of my undergraduate degree, when I took the opportunity to do a small summer research project,” he says.  

“The thing that shocked me at the end was that we managed to characterise some completely brand-new compounds. It was really interesting to me that you can’t open a book, you can’t google it, this was the first time in the world anyone was learning about this. And it made me want to pursue my honours degree, and then into my PhD.  

“Research is incredibly vital to the future of medicine and health. It’s not only research looking at new medications, it’s research into whether what we’re doing is effective, or developing new diagnostic techniques.  

“I think research is truly important across the entire health field, but I also I think it’s important to be realistic about your expectations. It’s important to understand that research as a whole is to build a knowledge base – it’s the understanding that research is an iterative process where you build on the knowledge base of the entire world!” 

Samanatha Burley is an occupational therapist working in mental healthcare provision in the correctional system in Victoria. She says that occupational therapists are well placed to work in mental health provision, as the role of an OT is to focus on improving their well-being through the activities (occupations) they enjoy.  

“I think as OTs, we’re really well placed to work with people from a broader, holistic perspective. We understand how the broader environment impacts on people who experience mental illness and who experience disability,” she explains. 

“Of course, working in corrections can be quite challenging, because you’re working with people who experience occupational deprivation, where they don’t have access to things to occupy their time or to work on their recovery. And a lot of the time you’re working in a challenging environment with just a lack of access to things because it’s so restrictive.  

“A lot of the literature has started to talk about prisons being the new institutions for people with severe mental illness. And you certainly see that, working in this space, people unfortunately are often in a revolving door cycle. And in Victoria, our forensic mental health system is excellent, so for a lot of people, this is the best health care they receive. So they kind of come to prison, they get the best healthcare, they work with a multidisciplinary team, they get treated like human beings, which in prison is… feels like an odd sort of paradox. And then they go back out into the community and experience significant disadvantage and stigma, and then they come back. So that does make it challenging.” 

When asked if they are working now where they thought they would be when they started studying, our panelists offer the following insight: 

Luke: To be honest, not at all! But it’s about really taking hold of those opportunities and experiences that present in whatever way they do. Life can’t be mapped out as step one, step two, step three. I had a really good experience at Griffith University and it offered me is opportunities to travel, opportunities to work overseas in Taiwan as a nursing student. And all these experiences… It’s about being ready to take on the next challenge, not so much planning it. 

MikaelaI was just laughing because I’m definitely not! No one from my cohort went down the career path we thought we were going to, because your experience will totally change you. I think it’s just about embracing those experiences and not being afraid to let your career path change as you go – and not to be scared of change. 

Nicholas: When I started, I basically had no idea what I wanted to do – and I hated statistics with a passion! I really didn’t have like a clear kind of way mapped out, but it is all about taking those opportunities as they come. Going through my degree, there was the opportunity to do research inside the university. Then, there was the opportunity to go over to India and learn about how the pharmaceutical industry works there as well as pharmacy education. So take every opportunity that you can even if at the end of the day you think pathway probably isn’t for you. That’s something that you now know about yourself and can use to better yourself and yeah, develop your career further. 

Samantha: I don’t think I really knew, I was just willing to learn. Even if I did, that’s long gone. And it’s kind of evolved as I have grown and changed. And I think one of the reasons for that is also taking the opportunities that come and just grabbing them with both hands. And there’s been times where I’ve had an opportunity come up and I’ve thought, “Oh. I’m not ready for that, it’s too soon, I’m not quite there yet.” And I’ve gone for it and it’s worked out amazingly. So, I think that would be my key advice is obviously, network, like we’ve all said, but also be open to new opportunities and grab them if they come up and go for it.