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Nurse of the Year 2020 (Public Nursing) - Nirjala S

Posted 3 months ago


We recently interviewed NNA Registered Nurse Nirjala who received NNA Nurse of the Year (Public Nursing) in December 2020. In this interview, Nirjala describes what it was like working as an agency nurse in Sydney when the pandemic hit early on in 2020 and why she prefers agency nursing to fit in with her lifestyle.

​What does being nurse of the year mean to you?

I was thrilled to learn about NNA Nurse of the year 2020 (Public Nursing) given how, like everyone else, I had tough days as the pandemic hit – suffered social stigma during the pandemic making it difficult for me even to find a room to rent, lost my job for nearly 9 weeks, got quarantined for a fortnight at one of the SHAs I was working. Being awarded for NNA Nurse of the year 2020 (Public Nursing) in December was so motivating. I equate the award to something like a boost that lifts your spirits. And, what else could have been more fulfilling and uplifting exiting 2020?

What do you love most about the job / working with NNA?

When it comes to the nursing profession as a whole, I am always driven by the fact that we make up the largest section of the health workforce and that we make a massive difference in the lives of people. If I narrow it down to my area (psychiatry/mental health), the job can be extremely draining and challenging but is equally rewarding. I am proud to have passion and commitment for mental health, for this specialty in fact is among the least preferred and most-stigmatized.

What is your nursing specialty and what facilities/locations do you usually work at?

Psychiatric and/or Mental health nursing. However, I do work once in a while in acute medical and surgical units including ED. When the pandemic engulfed the world, I worked in different quarantine hotels (Special Health Accommodations), Community COVID-19 Testing Centres and COVID-19 Drive through Clinics as well.

Do you enjoy the flexibility of picking and choosing shifts that suit your family and/or lifestyle?

Absolutely. I hate to wake up early and so agency shifts have been great for me in terms of taking night shifts and afternoons but very rarely do I go for morning shifts. Moreover, at times I work for days in a row and I can take 5 days or even a week off to spend with my people, visit different places, or just stay home, sit for movies and binge-watching.

What are the main challenges you face as a nurse?

The major one is staff shortages that lead to an extra workload. It can be extremely stressful, physically and mentally draining. And, I never forget to mention burnout in psychiatric settings.

What advice would you give to other agency nurses?

Take good care of yourself, maintain good sleeping habits. And, love your work.

If you are looking at becoming an agency nurse with NNA, click here for more details.