John finds pride and purpose in nursing

John Harris stands in front of a sign that reads 'Main entrance' and Day Admission Centre'.
John Harris is the Nurse Unit Manager for the rehabilitation ward at Fremantle Hospital.
August 27, 2019

Most people remember their first day of work. The same goes for John Harris, who vividly remembers his first day as a baptism of fire.

“I was given a wash bowl, hand towels and soap and directed to give a full bed bath to a large elderly patient who had soiled himself head to toe,” John recalled.

“Despite having no experience, I had been given a chance and was so determined to do a good job. I just kept thinking to myself - ‘I can do this’.”

Today John oversees 47 staff in his role as Nurse Unit Manager for the rehabilitation ward at Fremantle Hospital. He shares insights from his career for Nursing Now, an international awareness campaign which aims to raise the profile of nursing and midwifery.

“When I left school, I studied anthropology which had minimal prospect of employment. I saw nursing as a very practical profession with good job opportunities and a well-establish career structure,” John said.

It was his ‘can-do’ attitude which saw John’s career progress, firstly through his formal education and then as a clinical nurse and clinical nurse specialist in various disciplines.

“Nursing has been a very rewarding and diverse choice. I get a lot of satisfaction from giving back and helping others, from caring for patients to mentoring graduate nurses.”

Nowadays, John spends his day prioritising tasks or issues that affect patients and staffing.

“I’m responsible for managing patient flow, allocating resources in a cost-effective manner and creating staff rosters that are balanced but also supportive of my staff’s needs,” John said.

“It’s also important that I spend time talking with our patients and their families. Good communication always helps in addressing any issues early on.”

“I’m extremely proud to be part of a dedicated multi-disciplinary team of nurses, doctors and allied health professions who deliver exceptional care to our patients.”

There are around 160 males working in various nursing positions across different specialties at Fiona Stanley Fremantle Hospitals Group. John said men shouldn’t be discouraged from entering the industry.

"It’s hard to break away from stereotypes and perceptions that our society still associates with nursing, even though nurses don’t share these views, but any male wanting to become a nurse should forget the stigma,” John said.

John offered some advice for those starting their careers.

“I have mentored many junior nurses over the years. My advice is always to act with integrity, treat all people with respect and dignity, and seek to do your best.”

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