Rachel Hibbard began her career as an exercise physiologist at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney. It was there that a colleague took an interest in Rachel’s strengths and suggested a slightly different career path.
"I worked with a really amazing doctor who planted the idea of a career in nursing in my head," said Rachel. "She often commented on my people skills and said she thought I’d make a really great nurse."
Rachel decided to take the leap, choosing to study the Master of Nursing (Graduate Entry) at Sydney Nursing School. By the end of the two-year course she knew she wanted to move into either perioperative or mental health nursing.
She chose mental health nursing because of its focus on people.
"I consider myself a very empathic person and mental health nursing is a profession that gives to me as much as I give to it."
"I’m addicted to learning, almost to my detriment. I just want to know more, to grow and reflect on my practice constantly.
"I was really fortunate that the scholarship enabled me to continue my learning and focus on my studies without financial stress."
The Master of Mental Health Nursing has taught Rachel not only about critical reflection, but also how to be a leader in mental health.
"I think there needs to be more leaders in nursing, especially in mental health. Old cultures are still very engrained, and I want to shift the paradigm. We should focus on ways to empower people and eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness."
While it can be a difficult job, Rachel says it’s gratifying when you persevere and gain the trust of someone who has gone through an acute crisis.
"When I’m working in the high dependency ward, it can be hard to develop initial rapport with a patient. I’m often seeing people at a very difficult and challenging time in their life. They may have survived a suicide attempt, or they’re experiencing psychosis or mania, they may feel suspicious, or paranoid because they are out of touch with reality.
"What I love about my role is collaborating with these people to make them feel safe again and empowering them to make choices.
"I always find that when a patient starts to remember my name, that is when I know they are getting better.
"In many ways, mental health nursing can be very confronting, but it’s also very rewarding. I know that throughout my career it will give more back to me than I will be able to give to it. It will enable me to reflect on my own life."