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Kaarin Goeldner. Photo: Supplied

Line dancing with presidents, and other nursing stories

I’m trying my best to get her to spill the beans, but ever the professional, Kaarin Goeldner won’t budge, but I can tell she wants to.

As a former PR professional turned student nurse, Kaarin is discreet, a habit well ingrained, and despite my best efforts and journalistic trickery, she won’t give me any celebrity stories. Nor will she name names from her time in hotel management in the US, or her time in corporate IT.

“The run sheet on some celebrities would be similar to the run sheet on the needs of some patients, minus the green M&Ms and stuff. But yeah, the amount of privacy required is definitely identical,” she jokes with me over the phone.

“There are some doozies. Oh, let me tell you, there's a mile-long list of doozies and some really funny things. I've taught a past president how to line dance.”

“Oh, wow. Can I include that?” I reply.

“I haven't given you the name. I guess that's fine,” she laughs.

And as I’m now imagining all the past presidents I can picture, together, line dancing, I’m happy I got the scoop. This is the reason I enjoy talking with nurses. The profession is made up of a broad spectrum of the community, many different people from many different places and all of them have an interesting tale.

Like the CNC who used to work in the mines and as a prison officer before finding nursing. Or the nurse who travelled Africa as a chef before joining the Red Cross to fight Ebola. Or the nurse who used to work in water irrigation, or the other nurse now working as a federal politician, and the multitude of nurses who went straight into the job from school.

Kaarin has lived a few different lives with multiple careers, spanning a few different continents, but now as she is settled in back in Australia with a family, she wanted to do a job where she could “give back”.

“I think it's always been there. I've always had a bit of a medical leaning, an interest in health, but I followed the excitement, the career, the money at the time, which was probably age appropriate. But now that I'm more mature, I think I need to be able to give back,” she says.

“I've got teenagers, and I can see that's taken me out of the workforce for a little while. Now that I'm getting back into it, I'm looking for something that'll really give me a sense of contribution and looking for something that I can almost validate self-worth with.

“I think everyone in their middle years starts to look for some sort of fulfilment in their job. And I thought nursing, really, at this point in my life is so appropriate, and it will pull in all of the skills that I've learned from other careers as well.”

Kaarin – who is on her third-year placement in Coffs Harbour Hospital ED – hopes to eventually land in critical care nursing, and after years in leadership roles in her previous life, she is also part of the Australian College of Nursing’s Emerging Nurse Leader (ENL) program, one of only 11 nationwide.

She credits the ACN for the “fantastic mentorship” she has received, including a career coach and mentor. As well as her colleagues at her latest placement for their endless patience, especially at a time of stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It's really an interesting placement. I do love it, but what's blown me away the most is at Coffs Hospital, the fact that every person in ED is a teacher,” she says.

“They're all so willing. I'm going into this intense environment knowing I'm the slowest person in the room and I'm probably going to slow them up, and they're all saying, ‘Don't worry, you're a student. Just be a student. It's okay.’

“The generosity they're showing with their time and their teaching is just mind-blowing,” she says in excited tones.

Often it is hard to get a good sense of someone over the phone, but Kaarin strikes me a someone who has enjoyed everywhere she has been, where she is now and who looks forward to the future.

She describes herself as a “multipotentialite”. I had to look that up. It's a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life. Multipotentialites have no 'one true calling' the way specialists do.

“Being a multipotentialite is our destiny,” says Wikipedia.

And that might be why nursing suits Kaarin down to the ground. I ask her if this is it for her now, the last stop on the job train?

“Yes,” she replies without hesitation.

“And the reason I say that is because the longer you're studying for, the more opportunities open up. I will definitely continue studying, but it will be in nursing and health.

"You start off in nursing thinking, ‘I'm going to be a nurse,’ and then the more you go into it, the more you realise that there are 10 different paths and then 15 different paths with nursing. You can specialise.”

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