Podcast: Stories of the graduate year with Francis and Robyn

NMS Podcast
Recent grads Francis and Robyn join the podcast to share what they’ve learned from their year as graduate nurses.

A smiling pair of young graduates in scrubs

Podcast details

Episode: 38
Guests: Special guest co-host Celeste Pinney, Francis and Robyn
Duration: 01:02:29
Tags:  graduate nurses and midwives, career development, education
Soundcloud: Listen to Episode 38


Mark and special guest co-host Celeste Pinney talk to Francis and Robyn, inspirational recent graduates who fearlessly share their stories of the highs and lows of their grad year. They share their vulnerabilities and offer tips to support other graduates.

We’re not using Francis and Robyn’s last names to protect their privacy.

Robyn discusses the importance of support mechanisms so you can debrief, reflect, and recognise what you need:

“Asking people if they have room for you, if they can hold the space for you to have that deep chat about whatever was going on during a shift or how the whole week was... 

Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Your feelings are valid. What you're going through is valid. You're not the only one experiencing it. Try and find if you can. Try and speak up. Talk to your other peers, your fellow grads, and just ask if anyone else is feeling the same way. Because when you find someone that is feeling the same way, it can make you feel not so alone in the emotions you're going through and the experiences that you're having at that time.”

Francis encourages graduates to make the most of your graduate year, to learn as much as you can and enjoy it. He advises to try and let go of your fear and trust in the process.

Francis acknowledges that stressors and difficult times will be inevitable but focus on the pleasure and joy of learning, making connections and setting up your career.

For more tips you can also check out the next episode, Episode 39: A Graduate Coordinator’s advice for new grads with Joanne Purdue. You can also check out our resources for students and graduates.

Support is available. Nurse & Midwife Support is here to talk to you — free, confidential, and 24/7 on 1800 667 877 or by email

Your graduate year matters!

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About our guests


Headshot of Francis, a graduate nurse

Francis is an enthusiastic graduate nurse. Francis’ work experience as a personal care worker inspired him to make a positive influence on rural health. He is interested in providing more access to nurses in rural and regional parts of Australia. Francis is passionate about developing a more equally represented nursing workforce that is inclusive and diverse, breaking down gender stereotyping, and empowering marginalised people, including those from cultural and/or diverse backgrounds, in joining the nursing profession. Francis hopes that the path of his nursing career will lead him into primary health care or mental health nursing. He wishes to be a partner in health promotion, preventing illness, provide early intervention and disease management within the local communities. Francis is keen to assist in addressing the inequalities and disparities in accessing professional nurses as a resource for the prevention of disease, providing early intervention, and disease management within the community.


Headshot of Robyn

Robyn is a 23-year-old registered nurse at a Melbourne metro hospital. Before starting her Grad Year, Robyn was a RUSON assisting nurses throughout the pandemic. Since graduating she has worked on surgical wards and in orthopedics and trauma. Robyn has faced many ups and downs. Listen to her speak on her experience, give advice for how to stay on top of your mental health and show you it’s okay to fall off the bandwagon.

Guest co-host Celeste Pinney

Photo of midwife Celeste Pinney

Celeste is a registered midwife who has worked in the profession for ten years across many areas of midwifery including birthing, postnatal, antenatal and fertility. Celeste still works clinically as a midwife and also works as a senior clinician for the Nurse and Midwife Health Program of Victoria. Celeste is passionate about providing support to nurses and midwives in need. Celeste has a strong interest in health specifically relating to sleep, nutrition, exercise and stress. Celeste sings in a women’s community choir and loves weight lifting, being out in nature, dancing and Japanese food.


Mark Aitken [0:09] Welcome to the Nurse & Midwife Support podcast: Your Health Matters. I'm Mark Aitken, the podcast host. I'm the Stakeholder Engagement Manager with Nurse & Midwife Support, and I'm a registered nurse. Nurse & Midwife Support is the national support service for nurses, midwives and students. The service is anonymous, confidential and free, and you can call us anytime you need support. 1800-667-877, or contact us via the website: nmsupport.org.au.

Welcome to this edition of the Nurse & Midwife Support podcast: Your Health Matters. It's great to be here today to talk about support for graduates, and we're going to have a great conversation with two graduates, Francis and Robyn, and our co-host for the day, Celeste. Welcome to you all, and hello!

Celeste Pinney [1:12] Hi, Mark. Thanks for having us here.

Robyn [1:14] Hello. Thank you.

Francis [1:17] Thank you Mark, for inviting me. And thanks Celeste, for being here.

Mark Aitken [1:22] I'd like to begin today by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which each of us are listening from, and I pay my respects to First Nations elders, past and present. I extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples listening today.

Today we're going to talk about all things support for graduates. We know that the graduate year can be a time of excitement, anticipation, challenges, and for some fear and trepidation. But we're hoping to demystify all that today and share some support, tips, resources and strategies [that] will assist you to have a great grad year. So to do that, as I said, we've got two fabulous graduates in their grad year at the moment, Francis and Robyn, and Celeste is going to tell you a bit about what she does with Nurse & Midwife Support.

Celeste, I might start with you and you can give a little bit of background.

Celeste Pinney [2:26] Great, no worries. Thanks, Mark. My name is Celeste. I'm a registered midwife. I work for the Nurse & Midwife Support line as a telephone clinician. I also work for the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program of Victoria, as a senior clinician offering counselling to nurses and midwives. And I work casually in a few hospitals across Melbourne. So that's me.

Mark Aitken [2:52] Thanks, Celeste. Francis, would you like to tell our audience a bit about yourself, please?

Francis [2:59] Sure, thank you. My name is Francis, and I am currently a graduate registered nurse here in Bendigo. It is an exciting moment and a highlight for me this year, because it is definitely where I've consolidated what I've learned from university and still learning. I'm very happy and excited to keep learning. Every day is new, and there's always something to learn everyday. I'm excited for this grad year, and the next year to come.

Mark Aitken [3:32] Thanks, Francis. Robyn, a bit about you?

Robyn [3:36] Hi, everyone. My name is Robyn. I'm also a graduate nurse this year, however, I am working in Melbourne. A little bit about me ... I did my undergrad degree in Geelong. I worked as a RUSON as an undergraduate as well, which I really enjoyed. I moved to the city as well as starting my grad year at the same time. So my year has definitely been eventful, but little changes for [inaudible].

Mark Aitken [4:03] Thanks, Robyn. And for those people who aren't in Victoria, and don't have the RUSON model, can you explain a little bit about that recent model, what it is, Robyn?

Robyn [4:14] Yeah, sure. RUSON stands for Registered Undergraduate Student of Nursing. Originally, I got my job in 2020, and when I saw the job advertisement, I thought, "Oh my gosh, why didn't anyone think of this sooner? This is such a good idea to have students in a hospital setting."

So I started my job and basically, I was a part of the COVID Rapid Response Team. We were swabbing, we were vaccinating when the vaccines came out. A lot of my work also consisted of being on the wards. I worked in ICU and EUD. I got to basically just help out registered nurses, help with pressure area care, hygiene. We stocked up, we did a little bit of running around for everyone. It was a really good experience and just getting to experience that hospital setting and the hospital dynamic before becoming a graduate was really beneficial.

Mark Aitken [5:13] Do you think that's helped you in your grad year Robyn?

Robyn [5:16] Definitely. I think that having seen how the hospital works, having that hospital dynamic in the back of my mind, even if I am at a different hospital now, it's the baseline everywhere, the foundation. So having that experience was really good. It was less daunting walking in.

I think it definitely made me more confident as a grad, confident to speak up, confident with my communication with a multidisciplinary team. And obviously getting to work with patients firsthand as an employee, that was really beneficial as well, because I know that sometimes on placement, you don't really get that whole experience. You're only there for a brief amount of time. You might make a connection with someone for four weeks, and then you have to go and you never see them again. But being there all the time and working, having those relationships with patients definitely made me a better nurse today, I think.

Mark Aitken [6:22] How would you say your grad year has been for you to date, Robyn? What are some of the highlights and what were some of the challenges?

Robyn [6:30] So I'm actually in my second rotation now, and the last few months have been a little bit difficult. But I do enjoy the ward. It is very heavy, but lots of learning opportunities, lots of learning experiences. When I have those hard days, I just tell myself, it's a learning opportunity. It's a learning experience. It will get better. I'll be a better nurse because I have experienced this.

My first rotation, I was really lucky. I was on a surgical ward, it was a mixed surgical [ward]. In a shift, I would look after an orthopaedic, an urology, a general surgery and a med unit patient. I feel like in my first six months, I got exposed to lots of diverse patients, lots of different presentations, which was really good. Gave me a world of knowledge in a lot of different things, a jack of all trades, as they say.

First rotation was really amazing, amazing staff on the ward. I really enjoyed having those diverse patients every day. Now I'm currently working on orthopaedics and trauma, and it's still a great ward. I do enjoy being there, but I think the transition has hit me a little bit harder than I expected.

Mark Aitken [7:53] Thanks, Robyn, for sharing that. What I really picked up there was the difficult element and the transition challenges. I hear that a lot, actually. So what I think would be useful for people is to explore that a bit. When it's got difficult, or you felt that transition challenge, and some people describe 'transition shock' that some grads experience, particularly as they go from student to graduate. Obviously they're completely different roles. So when it's been difficult, or you felt that transition challenge, what has actually been helpful for you in that moment? What's given you support?

At my hospital, we do grad debriefs, which have always been really useful. The educators on my ward are absolutely amazing and I feel like I can go and speak to them when I need something. So I'll go and have a chat to them as well. Definitely make friends with the educators! They'll be your best friend, be your support.

Robyn [8:59] Also going and speaking to my peers, other graduates and just [saying], "This was my shift. I don't know how to [inaudible] this. I don't know what even happened." Just getting another perspective on it, and having that reassurance. I've had shifts where I haven't even realised how stressed I've been and someone will be in the middle of a role or something, and looks at me and [says], "You were doing such a good job." And I'd be like, "Oh, my gosh, thank you so much." Just having that validation and recognition that your experience and your feelings are valid is really important. Having those people around you that can give you that and that you can give to them in return is also really good.

Mark Aitken [9:44] Great points, Robyn. A big shout out to all our grad educators, coordinators and supporters out there. Thank you very much for what you're doing to support our graduates. I think sometimes we don't all get enough positive feedback and validation, as Robyn says, is vitally important. So a big thank you to you all.

And to all of you grads listening, thank you very much for embarking on your careers and being part of the nursing and midwifery professions. I want you to know that we see you, and we care for you and we support you. You may not always feel that, but support is there. Nurse & Midwife Support is certainly a big part of the support that we can offer you.

So contact us anytime you need support, 1800-6 67-877, or via the website, nmsupport.org.au. We have some great resources to support graduates on our website. We'll be putting them in as links to the show notes for this podcast, and reach out sooner rather than later. No issue is too big or too small, and our registered nurses and midwives who answer the phone understand the world that you live and work in.

Francis, over to you, what has your grad year been like?

Robyn [11:09] It's been amazing. Overall, I honestly had a difficult time during my first rotation, due to some personal and life factors that I've been through. The first rotation was a bit difficult for me, because I'm still impacted by those life issues or concerns. However, I've had great support from the nurses that I was working with in the ward, and especially my nurse educator. I agree with Robyn, you need to make friends with your nurse educator, because they are the ones who will support you, and the ones who would advocate for you as a student ... sorry, as a nurse, actually, as you're already a registered nurse as seen in this program.

So sometimes you're not being listened to because it's like a hierarchy, and graduate nurses sometimes feel like they're in the lower rank. Your suggestions, for example, or even your experience, your little experience, is not really seen as important, I'd say. I came into our transition into nursing as a mature student, and I had experience in aged care, and that really have helped me a lot to see myself and become a registered nurse. So I would advocate to those who are still doing their undergraduate nursing to do a RUSON or what we call here 'assistant in nursing' or 'health services assistant'. I was one of them, and it really helped me to see what nurses do in the hospital. I was like, "Yep, I would like to become that kind of nurse." Very passionate, and very clear when it comes to communication has helped me through this program this year.

Overall, I had an amazing program. This second rotation I requested personally because I'd like to work in mental health. Last year, I was on the verge of thinking, "Should I go straight into mental health nursing? Or would I really want to get into my medical nursing, medical, surgical nursing. This rotation, I can just see myself working in here, and I'm loving it.

What I learned from my previous rotation ... I was able to apply everything and I'm still learning. Every day is a learning process, you will still forget little things in basic nursing care. So it's been a roller coaster. But at the end, it's definitely worth it I would say, because as I mentioned earlier, this is where you transition or consolidate all your learning from university to being a registered nurse.

Mark Aitken [14:14] Thanks, Francis, for sharing that. I think you make a very good point actually. Inevitably, many of us through certain points in our career, and even in our grad year, will experience personal issues, hiccups, challenges, that of course will make a grad year potentially, or points in our career, a bit more challenging. I think it's vitally important that if that happens in your life, that you just acknowledge that you're human, and that we're all vulnerable.

We ran a campaign with the ANMF Vic branch called 'You're Only Human'. I think it's a reminder to nurses and midwives to recognize that we are nurses and midwives and we are incredible people and we're really respected by the community for the work we do, but at the end of the day, we're human and so we have all the vulnerabilities and frailties of any other person. And that's okay!

So what we promote is acknowledging that, being gentle with yourself, and reaching out for support whenever you need it. Also what we advocate is checking in with yourself regularly and each other and asking that really important question, "Am I okay?" AIf you're not okay, reach out for support. We're here. If you notice a colleague's not okay, ask them, discreetly of course, that really important question: are you okay? Often that will be the lifeline that people need to get support and the help they need. So great point, Francis.

Francis, what have you found most challenging in your grad year? What have you found most supportive?

Francis [16:02] I will start with challenging because this first rotation was a challenge for me. The most challenging [aspect] was, you're not really being considered as a nurse, when you're going through personal issues, and you have some mental health issues that you're dealing with. I'm not talking about like big issues here, we're talking about, for example, you have some symptoms of depression or anxiety, and the graduate nursing program can be a really nerve-racking experience for everyone, because you're expected to do everything as a registered nurse.

I was avoiding making a mistake, when it comes to medication error, for example, or anything to do with patients safety, that was the most fearful moment before I started my graduate nurse program. As you mentioned earlier, we are human beings, and we are going to make mistakes, and I would say that I am not the best nurse out there. However, who among us hasn't made a mistake in their career? I'm not saying big mistakes, but little mistakes. You forgot something, like signing off the drug that you have given, for example, or even checking insulin because you're just getting into that routine. You're like, oh, okay, I forgot something.

So it's actually important to check in with yourself, that is absolutely correct. I would agree with that, you know, how am I doing? How am I travelling? Before you go and say, how are my patients? Because most importantly, we need to look after ourselves, sometimes we forget to do that. We just give, give, give. We care a lot. But we actually don't see and care for ourselves as well.

I think that the most challenging part of it was when someone's going through some mental health issues, for example. Or, for example, you're going through some time management [issues] at home. I have friends of mine, who are already in this program, and it is very hard to find [time], for those nurses who have kids. They have to drop off their children or they have to pick them up, from 7:00-3:30. It's really hard to fit it all in. I think that is getting them a lot of [inaudible] as well. I spoke to one of the nurses and she said, "I am actually stressed because of this situation. It's just become too much. I love my career, but it's just a bit too much because of my family responsibilities and roles."

So personally, that would be my challenge, sometimes you're not being heard as a graduate nurse. However, on the other hand, the graduate program is like one size fits all. It's good in a way, but it isn't as well. The nurses, a hundred percent, I love the nurses that I'm working with, they are my greatest support in the world. Because if I have questions, for example, "I know I've done this before, I just want to make sure that I'm doing the right thing. Can you please show me again or help me get through this process, because it's been quite a long time." There are nurses out there that'll be willing straight away and say like, "Look, I have time for you. I'll help you."

I think that helps me a lot because that is absolutely gaining my confidence in my career because the graduate program is meant to be investing in those new grads so that we have better nurses in the future. That's how I felt about those nurses who are there to support me and help me, give me some tips and some suggestions for next time. How am I going to go about it? I love when I'm being supported. Who doesn't?

Mark Aitken [20:21] Absolutely, Francis. Support is everything, and there's a lot of support out there, so reach out whenever you need it. And if you are looking for something specific and you don't know what it is, then given us Nurse & Midwife Support a call, and we'll help you figure it out. 1800-667-877, or talk to a trusted friend, colleague, educator or manager.

Robyn, back to you. What did you find most challenging and supportive?

Robyn [20:51] Most supportive, definitely having those connections with other grads, having connections with my uni friends, my RUSON friends. I have an endless list of people I can reach out to and talk to about my day, my shifts, whatever is going on in life. That's really nice.

I guess we're supportive in the workplace, there are so many supports, as Francis said, and you do that as well Mark. At my hospital, we have a wellbeing team, we have peer support. There's also the Employee Assistance Program, which is an external program that you can call and you can still talk to nurses and staff.

At my hospital, we do a lot of inservices around ... how would you say it ... different behaviours we experienced. We have a sexual health nurse, or a sexual safety nurse, I should say, and she's absolutely amazing. She has taken us through some inservices in regards to patient behaviour, which I've also found really supportive. I've also found my educators really helpful, as I said earlier, they're always around, always checking in on you, which is really nice. I never go to the shifts where I don't see an educator. My Ward also has an after hours Nurse Specialist and they also look after grad students, which is great.

So I think there's an endless amount of support out there, and I've been really lucky to get to experience that firsthand. But it's also just a matter of remembering you might not be able to see those supports, unless you speak out and say "I need help." Which is always one of the hardest things to do, I think. But I loved how much support I'd had in my grad year, especially from other nurses on the ward, and everyone else I mentioned just then.

I guess something really challenging ... and no one really talks about it, but the transition shock going between wards. I know a lot of people talk about transition shock from student to grad, which is the biggest thing, you don't really understand it until you're going through it. You're like, oh yeah, transition shock. Then you start going through it and you're like, oh my God, the anxiety is sky high.

It's a lot, the transition shock from student to grad. But once you transition wards, you've had that first six month period where you've been on a ward, you've gotten really comfortable with the procedures on that ward. You know, how the ward dynamic is, how it functions, just the little details. And then you stop at six months, you're a registered nurse, you know what you're doing on the shift, all of that, and you know where everything is. Then you get picked up and pulled out and put in a different environment, a different ward, and having to re-navigate that ward is so hard, I'm still trying to navigate my new ward at the moment.

It's definitely valuable experience, but it is very difficult. So I advise everyone to make sure that they have their supports ready, got their interventions and coping mechanisms in place during that time. Because I think that that was probably the hardest transition that I've gone through this year.

Mark Aitken [24:43] Thanks, Robyn. You make some very good points. I'm really glad you brought up transition shock because it is a very real experience that people have. Can we talk about that a bit more please, to flesh it out, what it is? How would you actually describe it, Robyn? Francis, feel free to come in here, if you've experienced it too. How do you feel like when you're going through that shock, because the way I hear it from grads, it really is like having a shock experience, like if you're almost on the roadside, and you're just about to cross and a car whooshes by trying to beat the light and your body goes into shock, is it that sort of shock? Or is it different?

Robyn [25:31] I think the transition shock that I experienced ... I've experienced it twice now, having come from student to grad, and then the change of wards. In the first setting, in the first three weeks of my grad year, it was like this anxiety that was continuously building up. It would always be there, every shift. You'd start with it, and then something would happen in the shift, and it would literally just skyrocket.

I think it's because you've settled in and you're like, oh, I'm the only person looking after these four patients. If anything goes wrong, it's on me. You know, you have that weight and that responsibility, after three or four years of your undergrad where you've always had other nurses with you, you've always been supported. Not saying you're not supported in the first three weeks, but you know, having that realisation that those four people are under your direct care, and you're the sole nurse looking after them.

I think that having that realisation and trying to navigate that emotion while you're still trying to navigate how to actually be a registered nurse, how to finish a med round before nine o'clock. How to communicate with patients and families and teams and get used to the hospital that you’re working in. While trying to navigate all of that you also need to come to the realisation that you are responsible for these patients. So it's a shock, it really is a shock.

I experienced a lot of impostor syndrome. Some days I would start a shift and I'd be getting handover, and I just felt incompetent. I was like, I'm not the right person for this. I can't be doing this job. I don't know how to do this. They're going to see through me, I'm not good enough to be here. All of those negative things going through your head.

But at the end of the day, like you need to pull yourself up on that communication, that internal monologue and be like, I worked hard to be here, this is where I'm meant to be. I'm doing everything I can right now. If you are stressed because you don't know how to do something, go and ask for help. Everyone is there to help you and make sure you survive your grad year. Not just survive, but thrive in it as well.

That was probably the first transition shock, then stepping into the change of ward. I think with that transition, it's more a culture shock. Because you've been somewhere for six months, you know all the people there, you know the people you can go to help for. You know the dynamic of the ward, how it works, how things like to be done, you know where everything is, you have that routine in place.

Then as I said, you get picked up and moved, and you have to navigate all of that again. You have to find the people that you can talk to, find the people that you can approach and ask for help. You have to relocate yourself, re-navigate the ward, find out where everything is. Those first few weeks can be really hard as well.

I experienced a lot of impostor syndrome again, in my second rotation. And the other thing is, the patient presentations are going to be different as well. There'll be a lot of new terminology you don't understand. It's the whole thing, trying to navigate a new ward, but it is possible and you will get through it. It's just important to remember those supports that you have in place and reach out and ask for the help that you do need. Definitely while all this is happening, you need to make sure you're looking after yourself outside of work as well, because you work to live, you don't live to work.

Mark Aitken [29:49] Good advice, Robyn. For those of you who don't know what impostor syndrome is, we'll put some information up as part of the show notes for this podcast. The way I see it is that you end up in a position or a role and you have self-doubt, and you actually don't think that you can do the job or in some cases, don't think you should or deserve to be there. Robyn or Francis, would you add anything different to that?

Francis [30:19] Absolutely. There is definitely an imposter syndrome going on. To every grad year nurse, I would say I experienced that myself. I think the most important value that I've learned from the university I went through was [they said] "We can't teach you everything, we always say that. But we are here to tell you or to teach you where to find it." Say for example, medication. There's plenty of medications, they're going to be updated every year. So they have given us access to, say, MIMS Online or [inaudible]. This is where we find medications if you have trouble remembering them.

There are five strategies to beat impostor syndrome, and I've seen this great resource from the Australian College of Nursing. One of the values that my university taught me is to reach out to your networks, look out for the answers to your questions. I found this strategy helpful.

First you need to acknowledge your achievements, because definitely, that will give you back your confidence. This is where the imposter syndrome is coming in, you are becoming less than less. You recognize that you've actually studied for three years, you actually went to your placement, you submitted your assessments, and you have researched, evidence-based research that you have written up and you have submitted to your university. So firstly, you need to acknowledge that you actually have those [things] backing you up, you have those skills, you have that knowledge. It might not be perfect and might not be strong, but you have those skills.

Most important is what Robyn mentioned, we need to let go of our sense of professionalism, because sometimes we look to ourselves. We're nurses, we're not meant to make mistakes, you know. A hundred percent when it comes to medication, definitely and when it comes to patient safety, definitely a hundred percent. However, we are also graduate nurses, we're learning every day. I'm not saying that we need to allow mistakes. What I'm trying to say is that we need to let go of those little things, like the attitude of saying 'should'. I have learned this recently, we say I should have done this, I should have done it that way. However, we need to see ourselves and say, alright, next time I could do this possibly, or I could possibly do it in different ways. Let go of perfectionism.

And of course, seek support from other nurses that you can trust, either they are younger nurses or they are older nurses on the floor, they are your greatest supporters in the world. You will learn that as you go along with, say for example, your next rotation, even in your first rotation in a way, you are still trying to observe and trying to learn about everyone. Who you can trust and open up to, you can be as vulnerable as you can be to these nurses, and they will be there to help you because we are human beings, it is a profession where we care and it involves feelings and emotions. Seeking support from nurses who would give you that confidence, I think that would help you build up a successful nursing graduate program.

Mark Aitken [34:11] Great advice, Francis and Robyn, thank you and a really important conversation. Celeste, I'll bring you in here to ask some questions.

Celeste Pinney [34:23] Fantastic. Thanks so much so far, Francis and Robyn, loved listening to what you've had to say and really powerful words. I think that's going to be incredibly helpful for the graduates that are going to be commencing next year in the nursing and midwifery profession.

I'm curious to hear if you had any advice to give to yourself before starting the graduate year, last year when you were students, what do you wish you knew before commencing?

Robyn [34:53] I'll go first. I would tell myself, this is going to be the hardest year ever, that it's going to be okay, and you're going to get through it.

I think if I could go back and talk to myself, I would probably try and encourage myself to have a few more hobbies in place. I don't think people talk about this enough, that when you're a student, you have uni, you have your part-time job, you have your hobbies, your social life, you have all of these different things going on. I feel like university life is so crazy, you have to keep in touch with your family if you've moved out of home, you might be traveling to see them, you've got a few jobs to pay the rent, and all of that stuff. Because obviously, we all know that student life isn't easy.

I think having had all of those reasons, having had all of those responsibilities and things going on in my life and things I had to organise, and then stepping from the student life to registered nurse ... my sole purpose this year is to complete my grad year. It's something I've really struggled to grasp, I am fulfilling my purpose right now, I am doing what I'm doing. But it's really hard to understand that because I just go from work to home and home to work.

So I think definitely having some hobbies in place, so that you have those things to look forward to and enjoy when you finish your work day. I think that's really important.

Celeste Pinney [36:40] Great to hear that, Robyn. I think what you said there is really crucial in striking that work/life balance, where we're still having interests outside of work, so that we're feeling like our whole life isn't centred around work. Trying to maintain that, even though that can be really hard, because the grad year can be so all-consuming, as you said. Sometimes you feel like you're just going from work to home and home to work. Maintaining that is really important.

Robyn [37:08] I think another thing is that you're allowed to fall off the bandwagon. You're allowed to have those few months or few weeks where you stop going to the gym, you stop cooking meals. Allowing yourself to feel the emotion that you're feeling, that you're going through. Allowing yourself to not be able to do everything is also really important. You can't expect yourself to be good at everything at once. If all you have the energy for is work, a shower, and a nap, then that is okay, that is enough. That's all you have to do in that day.

Celeste Pinney [37:59] I think that ties in with what we were talking about before around perfectionism and not putting too much pressure on ourselves to try to tick all the boxes because there absolutely will be some days or some weeks when you know, you're going through a lot, you're really tired. You're learning and you might just be able to do the basics, and that's okay, too, and letting ourselves off the hook.

Robyn [38:20] Yeah, and still understanding that you're learning every single day. As a student, you go on your four week placement and you're so exhausted, because every day for those four weeks, you have been pounded with information, it's all going in and all going in. But even though we're registered now, we're still grads, we're babies in the industry, we're novices. We're still going through that period, and it may not be as intense, but still understanding that our brains are learning and that is an exhausting thing in itself. To just continuously be having new information coming in.

Celeste Pinney [39:03] Absolutely, very good point. Francis, love to hear from you. Is there anything you'd like to add on to what Robyn has said, and any thing that you would have liked to have known for yourself before you started the grad year, or anything else important to impart?

Francis [39:18] There will be hiccups, I would say that to myself. So just let go of your fears and enjoy the program because it is a great program for you. That's what I say to myself, I am enjoying my program, especially this last rotation. That's my advice to those final year students or even after grad year students who are listening to us today.

Also, find a mentor. I think that really has helped me get through not just my undergraduate nursing, but as well as this graduate program. I had a great mentor, I met her at university and she would talk to me about [inaudible]. I can talk to her about anything, really. About my mental health, for example, like, oh, it's really stressing me out, and she would help me because she's been through that. I think this is a great opportunity as well to open up on the same level, you know what I mean? We're both nursing students, she was one year ahead of me, and I was in my final year, and I was so stressed my final year. And then here she is, just like, "You've got this!" You have all the tools and resources for you to be able to have a successful graduate program.

So don't doubt yourself, and let go of that fear of 'I can't do this, I'm having trouble [seeing myself as] a good nurse'. You are a good nurse, you are going to be a good nurse. It's a matter of how you're going to build that confidence and learn. You're like a sponge, when you go to your first rotation or your second rotation, how[ever] many rotations you're going to. It's fun to just come in a white paper and you just have to write everything up and learn as much as you can. I think that's what I would say to myself, just be an open book.

I'm not saying that I came to the rotations, like 'I've learned everything'. But you know, I'm still learning.

So, going back to the mentorship that I have mentioned, because there is great evidence of [the benefits of] effective clinical supervision. I'm talking about when you go into your rotation, and I'm not sure if others have been doing it ... but in this rotation that I'm doing, I have a clinical supervisor, where we debrief and talk about my day, for example, or my challenges in the ward. So it could be my patients, could be my colleagues. These are clinical supervisors who are not in the ward, who used to work in the units or in the ward, but they no longer work there. They are from the education team. I think that is a great resource.

If there are none, maybe ask someone in the graduate program, if there is someone who could supervise you to talk about these things. Because it can be biassed sometimes, when you work in the ward and say, I have some challenges, have some issues, I have problems, and you talk your nurses, and then they're gonna say, "Alright, we will support you," or on the other hand, they'll say, "You just gotta suck it up and move on. It's not an important comment, or it's not an important event." I think with the clinical supervision it's someone who is outside that environment, and they can talk to you about what challenges you're going through, and they can see it and guide you in a way that is not biassed, if that makes any sense. Because if you're in this environment where you have a good connection with the nurses that you're working with, or even your manager, it can sometimes be biassed.

Celeste Pinney [43:37] I think you've made some amazing points there, and you've got some really resourceful strategies for helping yourself through the graduate year. Having a mentor, or seeking out a mentor, is a really valuable resource that we encourage people to seek out because it gives you someone who's had some lived experience, and has been through what you're about to go through and can really encourage and support you.

And clinical supervision ... some people might not know what clinical supervision is, so we'll pop a couple of resources in the notes about that. But any nurse or midwife in Australia can access clinical supervision. You do have to pay for it. It is a tax deductible expense. But basically that allows you to speak about anything that's going on at work that's impacting you and unpacking and debriefing it with someone who's been trained in that area. We'll pop a resource in about how people can access supervision if they wish. Really great to hear that you've been so incredibly resourceful for finding ways to help support yourself through this time.

I'm also curious to hear from both of you about what you've done in terms of your self-care or what's helped you look after your health and wellbeing through the graduate year, just even a couple of top tips, or a couple of things that you've found seems to be most beneficial. Maybe you could start, Robyn?

Robyn [45:05] I've just made sure that I haven't lost my connection with friends. There definitely have been a few friends that I haven't spoken to as much and I used to really rely on them, but just making sure that I will check in every few months, and you're able to get the report, and catch up on life. Even going for a quick coffee with them can be really helpful just to regroup and settle in.

Also, going for walks. I like going for walks. I think walking is great, and I've sporadically gone to the gym this year. As I said, it's okay to fall off the bandwagon, but going to the gym, having that energy outlet that allows you to release those emotions, those feelings. Yeah, definitely just a few little things there. Friends, gym, walking, and making sure you get enough sleep. Listening to your body.

If you feel like you can't go to that social event, because you've just had the biggest day at work, just say I'm sorry, I can't attend, I need ‘me time’. Realising when you need that self-care time of just being by yourself, whether that be watching Netflix, scrolling through Tik Tok, reading a book, listening to a podcast, or music while you just chill out. I think that's really important. Understanding when you need to refresh as well, whether that means cleaning your space, rearranging something, or getting out into a different environment. Just being able to acknowledge those things.

I guess another form of self-care is speaking up, having the ability to say, actually, I'm not okay. Then going to your preceptor, your manager, or your educators about that, and saying, "Hey, is there any chance that I can have the next day off so that I can refresh and regroup? Because I don't think I'm providing my best patient-centred care at the moment." Definitely trying to check in with yourself. I think those are all really important forms of self-care.

Celeste Pinney [47:43] Hmm. Yeah, really good to hear. It sounds like you've really thought about what's worked for you and put some good self-care processes in place. I think knowing your limits and boundaries around where you're at on any given day, mentally, emotionally, and how that's impacting your work with patients and letting people know how you are and seeking support. That's really great. Keeping physically active is another important element that incorporating even ten minutes a day can be really great. So thanks for sharing, Robyn.

Robyn [48:16] Definitely. I really like what you said about limitations and boundaries. I think that even before going into your patient's room after handover, checking in with yourself and being like, okay, how do you feel about the day that's coming ahead? Those little things. And if you do have a patient who might remind you of a family member, or might remind you of another patient you looked after and it was quite distressing for you, just acknowledging that, then being able to speak up about that as well. Setting that boundary of, "I actually don't think I can provide the best care for this patient. Is it possible to have someone else do that?"

Celeste Pinney [49:02] Those regular check-ins are so important. You can always be doing that consistently with yourself through the working day. Really great tip.

How about you, Francis? What would be some top tips that you would share about what's helped you with your self-care over this year?

Francis [49:21] I would say go out. Get out the house. Do something outside. I'm a person who enjoys going out. I just love going out, that's it. Meet with your friends outside. Even just a simple afternoon walk for example, reconnecting with your friends again. Sometimes, when we are in this program, we'll be thinking it is consuming us, it's consuming our time and our life but nursing in general scope doesn't define us.

I'm a person who loves, for example, drawing or singing or performing. Do something that you're passionate about, aside from nursing, go for that goal. Because everything else will fall into place, I can assure you. There's a lot of resources in this nursing program with the organisation you'd be working with, or outside of that, there are a lot of resources for you to be successful. Sometimes we think, oh, okay, I'm forgetting who I am now. I'm being a 'nursing career' oriented person. So don't forget about yourself, there are things that you are going to do outside of work.

Also definitely look after yourself. Sleeping is very important. Nutrition is also good, is important. Exercise probably is the best tip I would say, do whatever exercise that you can do yourself. I practise yoga, and that helps me get grounded, helps me reset myself. By practising meditation or yoga, it really is a refreshing exercise for my mind, and for my feelings and emotions so that I can give out again, the best I can be.

Celeste Pinney [51:31] How do you incorporate that into your routine? Do you plan ahead and think about when you'll do it? Or is it just when you have the time, when you're feeling it? I'm just curious to know how you implement that into your week, that best works for you?

Francis [51:41] That is a very good question, because we work in shifts, and it is very hard to put it in there. I do have different activities that I enjoy, and I will just pick out what I'd like to do. For example, this week, I have yoga exercise, for example, or practice, and then I'll say, well, it's going to be this day. I'm not going to be working this day, or I'll be working, but it has to be morning shift. So I will request that, I will request a day off, for example. I think that's important because it is your time.

For any event anyway, in reality, in anything really, you need to request [time] off to set a day for yourself. You don't have to do anything, you don't need to do anything specifically. I'm more of a random kind of a person sometimes, I just go out and [do] five things that interest me, and I will talk to that person. From there, I would have a connection, and then talk about other things.

I don't really have a particular routine, I am not that kind of person, some people that works for them. That doesn't work for me, especially with my working shifts. So I have prepared activities that I enjoy. I say right, I'll go and do that next week, or I will go and do that tomorrow, and make sure that you have allocated a day for yourself. So that's me.

Celeste Pinney [53:19] I think what you're saying there is it's important to have flexibility, particularly when you're doing shift work because your hours are always changing. So you fitting it in when you can and everyone will have a different idea about what works best for them. It's great to hear that for you it's maybe a little more spontaneous or a little more random. But as long as you are engaging in those activities, and you're having your self-care time, that's the most important thing. Really good to hear from you in regards to that.

I think what what you've both covered is some of the very fundamental elements of self-care, like sleep. Sleep is really pivotal. Exercise, healthy eating, and then social time and having interests outside of work so the work doesn't become your whole life. We've got lots of great resources on our website in regards to all of those different topics, so if people want to explore that further they can. But really fantastic to hear that. So thank you, both of you.

I guess just the last question for me, is there anything else that either of you would like to share, just some final words about how you might be able to [inaudible]? What could assist graduates in their graduate year to have a really positive experience?

Francis [54:31] Well, I think since this is an accredited program, I would recommend that those who created the program, it would have been better if they consulted us as well and how the program would look like for us. As I mentioned earlier, this is not one size fits all.

I think it would be good as well, [if] for example ... I will be finishing up my graduate program, and next year will be my second year as a registered nurse. I think it's a good program, if they could have a mentorship program, for example, where we mentor those new graduates and say, "This is what I went through last year. This is what I find helpful and successful." I have not seen that. I don't know if that is in Melbourne. But here in rural health, I have not seen that kind of program. So I think that would be great and helpful as well, because nursing is really an ongoing profession. It's not just like you learn it in 12 months, that's it for you. It's an ongoing process, I'd say. So I think that would be good, if there was something to be created like that.

Celeste Pinney [55:55] Some sort of evaluation feedback that you can give at the end so that in the future, graduate programs are more tailored towards specifically what people are needing. Great. Okay, and how about you, Robyn?

Robyn [56:08] So my advice to new grads coming in, I think I'm just going to summarise everything I touched base on during the chat. Definitely making sure you've got supports in place, your people, [who] you can go to debrief [with]. Asking the people if they have room for you, if they can hold the space for you to have that deep chat about whatever was going on on the shift or how the whole week was. Making sure you have those supports in place.

Definitely allowing yourself to feel your emotions. Your feelings are valid, what you're going through is valid, you're not the only one experiencing it, try and find if you can, try and speak up, go and talk to your other peers, your grads, and just ask if anyone else is feeling the same way. Because when you find someone that is feeling the same way, it can make you feel not so alone in the emotions you're going through and the experiences that you're having at that time.

Definitely try and have a hobby outside of work, try and book something in that you can look forward to, whether it be a gym class, yoga, pottery, painting, whatever tickles your fancy. Also, having those little elements of self-care throughout the week, whether it's reading a book for ten minutes, or going on a half hour walk after you finish your morning shift, or having a slow morning before your p.m., just making sure you're looking after you and really in tune with your body and what your body needs. Do you need that sleep in? Have that sleep in. I think those things are really important. Just understanding that this is gonna be a really hard year. It will be a struggle, you will face a lot of challenges, but it's all worth it in the end, and every experience you have this year is gonna make you a better nurse.

Celeste Pinney [58:13] Great words of wisdom from both of you and I think the students and graduates that are out there at the moment listening will really benefit from what you've had to say, and your experience. You've obviously, through probably a lot of trial and error, really worked through and found ways to best support yourself. So it's great to hear what you've been through and what you found has most worked for you.

Francis [58:35] Thank you Celeste, and let me just add as well, make the most of your graduate year, because I don't think you're gonna go back to this year again, the following year after that. So make the most out of it, learn as much as you can and definitely enjoy it. I know, it's easy for me to say let go of your fears, because I wouldn't accept that last year, I wouldn't accept that tip or suggestion. But try to let it go and just enjoy it. Enjoy and trust the process, you will be fine. Definitely.

Celeste Pinney [59:08] That's great, and there's so much to be said about enjoying the process too. Yes, there are some stressors, and there'll definitely be difficult times and you'll feel tired and overwhelmed. But we also want to try to find the pleasure and the joy in it too, because that's a really important part of going through an experience like this. So really great point to make.

Mark Aitken [59:31] Thanks very much. Francis, Robyn, you've been wonderful guests. There's such rich information in there. We really appreciate your time and you sharing your experience and your words of wisdom and putting yourselves out there in relation to vulnerabilities and enabling other graduates to benefit from your experience and your wisdom. That's a really important thing to do. So thank you from us to you, and thanks to Celeste for being such a great co-host.

Celeste Pinney [1:00:05] Thanks a lot, Mark. Fantastic to be here, really enjoyed it and enjoyed hearing what Francis and Robyn had to share, and I think our listeners are really going to get a lot out of today’s podcast.

Robyn [1:00:16] I’d also like to say thank you. I think that this experience of being able to talk through my experiences has helped me to have that debrief and it’s nice to reflect on the year that I’ve had so far. Especially coming to the end of the year, it’s nice to look back and say, “Hey, I’ve actually made it this far.” So I want to thank you guys for that, and I might have a vulnerability hangover after this, but we’ll be fine, we’ll recover.

Mark Aitken [1:00:46] Good on you, Robyn. Well, as we said earlier, we’ll channel Brené Brown, I know we’re both fans of her work. We’ll put some Brené Brown information in the show notes if you don’t know who I’m talking about.

Robyn [1:01:05] Wonderful. An icon. A mentor.

Mark Aitken [1:01:08] I agree!

Francis [1:01:10] Yes, thank you Mark for inviting me and this is a great time for me as well. Robyn mentioned, to be able to reflect on my grad year as well, it’s been a great conversation to be able to be myself and be able to express myself. So thank you so much for this time, and please don’t include this in the recording, this part, because I’m stuttering! So thank you very much for this time.

Celeste Pinney [1:01:42] Thanks, Francis.

Mark Aitken [1:01:43] Well, that’s it for today’s podcast, ‘Support for graduates’. Remember, everybody, support is available whenever you need it. Nurse & Midwife Support: 1800-667-877. The service is anonymous, confidential and free, and you can call us 24/7 no matter where you are in Australia. Look after yourselves, and each other. Remember: Your Health Matters, and I’ll speak to you next time.