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Why dual degrees open more - and more unique - nursing doors

Photo: Benjamin Jenkins
An early passion for paramedicine was the catalyst to registered nurse Benjamin Jenkins’ unique path to nursing, which involved the completion of a dual degree and a dynamic career that a single degree may not have afforded him.

“Initially, nursing was simply a way of following my passion of becoming a paramedic,” says Jenkins.

“However, it wasn’t long before I started to see the immense benefits of becoming a registered nurse.

“First and foremost, the ability to care for patients at their most vulnerable, and being able to make a true positive impact, was what appealed to me the most about nursing.

“Secondly, I had discovered early on in my studies, and whilst on clinical placements, that something I really enjoyed was not only the actual skills that I performed, but the conversations I would have with my patients and their families.
“I was in a position to listen to their concerns, and to provide reassurance and education during what is a stressful period. I felt as if I could really make a positive impact.”

Choosing which two degrees to pursue was as simple as Googling the words, nurse, paramedic and university.

“I clicked on the first link, which was the Bachelor of Nursing and Bachelor of Emergency Health (Paramedic) from Monash University, in Victoria.

“After spending the next few hours reading all about the degree, I was sold.

“Not only does the dual degree allow you to study towards becoming both a Registered Nurse and a Registered Paramedic, but it was the way in which Monash constructed their degree which was incredible.

“The clinical placements I went on were second to none. I would attend my nursing placements, my on-road paramedic placements, as well as attending specialist hospital placements as a paramedic student.

“These specialty areas included birth suite, operating theatre, special school, coronary care unit, emergency department just to name a few.

“This allowed me, as a nursing student, to discover the areas of nursing that I enjoyed, and to learn from each of these experiences.”

Entrance into the dual degree at Monash University, which took four years to complete, was competitive, requiring an ATAR during the year Jenkins applied of 94.

An easy choice

For Jenkins, the time and effort required for entry and completion of the dual degree was well worth it.

At the commencement of his third year of university, he received the Defence University Sponsorship Scheme (DUSS) from the Australian Army, to become a Nursing Officer.

After graduation, nursing students who receive DUSS complete two ‘placement’ years allowing them to practice, hone skills as a registered nurse, to then commence full-time employment as a Nursing Officer for a set return of service obligation.

“Receiving DUSS, provided an incredible opportunity to focus on my passions for leadership and volunteering.

“I spent my spare time, that I would have otherwise been spent working as a fitness instructor; participating in Monash Universities flagship leadership program: ‘The Vice Chancellor’s Ancora Imparo Leadership Program’.

“I attended as a delegate and later returned as a leader at the ‘National Student Leadership Forum’ held in Parliament House; I peer taught into first and second year paramedic classes; mentored high school students; and commenced my own peer teaching program into the School of Nursing & Midwifery.

“All of these provided a wealth of opportunities to develop myself, and my abilities, which has been of significant help post-graduation.”

A unique career path

Following graduation, Jenkins moved states, and commenced into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at one of Queensland’s Metropolitan Major Trauma Centres, Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH). 

“The 12-month program, which included a formal Queensland Health ‘Transition to Practice Program’, was incredibly challenging, and was exactly what I was chasing as a graduate nurse, fresh into the profession.

During the early stages of his studies, Jenkins’ career aspiration was to become an Intensive Care Flight Paramedic.

“The paramedics in Albany would detail their incredible experiences working in this role, and I was in awe of the excitement, variety, autonomy, continual training and development, and the true impact they could have on the lives of their patients.

“Knowing that I only have two placement years to experience, and to learn as much as I can, before commencing full-time as a Nursing Officer in the Australian Army, this year I moved from ICU into the Emergency Department (ED) at PAH.

“I feel incredibly privileged to have worked in two critical care areas, for my first two years as a registered nurse, in such a large, and high acuity major trauma centre.

“I truly believe the skills that I’ve developed over the last two years will set me up well as I enter the Australian Army full-time in January, 2020.”

Jenkins says he believes it was the dual degree in nursing and paramedicine that has set me up to achieve the level of success he’s reached over the last few years.

“It was the combination of the variety of clinical placements, the hand-on approach of repetitive training during paramedic classes, the similar course content taught from both the prehospital and hospital settings, the ability to compete in student paramedic competitions, and the structured ABC approach that paramedic students are taught, that provided the confidence in my abilities to start my career directly into a large major trauma centre’s ICU as a registered nurse.”

Dual degrees aren’t for everyone

“For me, the dual degree has been the perfect catalyst to my nursing career, however, I don’t believe it’s for everyone,” says Jenkins.

“You really have to ask yourself what your goals are, and where you see yourself in the future.

“With paramedicine now being recognised through AHPRA, it has now created new challenges for the dual qualified clinician.

“Needing to maintain a minimum number of hours working in both professions may be difficult for some, given that both careers require you to have completed a graduate program.”

Paying for two sets of registrations each year can be costly, and the need to maintain a certain number of continuing practical development (CPD) for each career can be time consuming.

“It may take a few years, as AHPRA refines the expectations of national registration, before the dual trained nurse paramedic can get a solid grasp of their yearly expectations.

“For now, however, it can be rough to maintain both registrations.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.