Featuring .. Gabrielle

Name : Gabrielle

Role : Registered Nurse in travel medicine

Location : Brisbane 🇦🇺

Brief role description/main responsibilities :

Pre Covid : We prepare travellers for international travel, whether it’s for business or holiday purposes. Many people now are travelling to the developing world, and need immunisation against diseases we don’t see in Australia like Rabies or typhoid. We also provide education about protective strategies to avoid diseases like malaria, parasite infections, or good old fashioned food poisoning.

For our corporate travellers, we prepare them to safely perform their roles, in whatever far flung places of the world they might be employed.

What do you most enjoy about your role? What is the favourite part of your role? :

I am semi-retired now, having retired from full time corporate work some years ago. I got bored and so took on this role part time. It’s an interesting change to be looking after a cohort of patients who aren’t sick, and I meet many interesting people doing amazing things!

How did you get into your role/industry?

I am old enough to have done hospital based training for nurses, which at the time was a 3 year course. Having graduated and started working, the health environment changed dramatically, and so did my personal circumstances. I realised I would be supporting three girls on my own, so I studied externally whilst working. I completed a degree in health science, and later a Master of Public Health.

Health is also one of those fields where we are fortunate to undertake job based courses or certificates in particular areas, so I was able to learn more about particular areas of interest like remote and rural nursing, emergency management and industrial health.

Have you won any awards or earned any special recognition or been involved in something “out of the box”? :

The beauty of the health industry is that you never need to be bored. I’ve worked in underground mines, rural and remote communities, hospitals and prisons. I’ve delivered babies and puppies, set a broken leg on a calf, retrieved casualties from underground mines and copper smelters, and worked with high security prisoners.

I have a low boredom threshold so “out of the box” is essential for me!

Do you have a favourite saying or quote? :

The measure of a just society is in how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.

I have a passion for social justice, and for working in the gaps – by which I mean looking after people who are largely forgotten by mainstream services, due to social constructs like poverty, incarceration, gender, sexuality and race and ethnicity.

Tell us a funny story about your role or an amusing experience at work :

I was working in a remote community in the Northern Territory, about 3 hours from Alice Springs. In the early hours of one bitterly cold winter’s morning, I was woken by banging on my front door, and yelling, “please, please help, she’s gone into labour!” I staggered out of bed and grabbed birthing packs, turned on the lights and opened the door to find a breathless young man had parked his car in the front yard. “Hurry, hurry, she’s in the car!” I took a deep breath and said, “it’s okay, let’s get her inside and see what’s happening.” So I ran to the car with him, and he gestured towards the tray of the Ute, saying “she’s in there.” Oh, I see now. “She” was a lovely kelpie who was indeed giving birth. “In for a penny, in for a pound,” I thought, and we got the lovely dog inside and helped her deliver a fine litter of pups.

What advice would you give to women? :

Never let a chance go by. Have the confidence of a mediocre white man!

As the years went by, various opportunities arose to do something I’d never done before and which seemed daunting at the time. But I always thought, there’s nothing I can’t learn so I’d say, “yes, I’ll have a go at that,” and inevitably it opens up a whole new world. If you don’t have the specific skills, you can learn them, and many skills are transferable.

Have you ever encountered any negative experiences that, although difficult at the time, may have helped shape who you are today? :

My final role before retiring from full time work was managing health services in Queensland prisons. Being a female leader in an intensely male dominated environment was frequently challenging. Listening and de-escalating conflict are essential skills, but so are courage and ethical decision making.

My primary takeaway lesson was that we need to work in an environment that doesn’t clash with our personal values. And wherever you work, you may not be able to control the organisational values, but you can ensure you work within your own.

Any feedback or comments about your she wears :

I love my “she cares” work and leisure sneakers! All day comfort and style!

Any other comments, stories or anecdotes you’d like to share :

I think it’s fabulous that a brand is designed by women, for women. When I worked as an Industrial Nurse at a large mine in the 80’s, PPE was only made for men! My overalls, steel capped boots, and hard hat were simply the smallest men’s size they could find for me. I’m delighted to see that women are now better protected, doing their jobs.

This photo was taken in 1985, when I worked in industrial health at Mount Isa Mines. A key part of my role was getting injured underground miners out and up to the surface, and this is the kit I had to wear. None of it fitted me, including the steel capped boots which I was obliged to stuff with cloth, and my hard hat, which being too big fell off regularly. Let’s not even start on the overalls which were rolled up and often caused me to trip when I was navigating underground sites.

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Thank you Gabrielle for sharing your story with us. You are a courageous, inspirational woman with an amazing, varied career. x

Stacey Head
Tagged: In Her Shoes