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Interview with HCA Defence Nurse

We recently interviewed HCA Defence Nurse Sue – Ellen Bartlem (Sue) an Acute and General Practice Nurse. Sue is originally from Queensland (QLD) and moved to Western Australia (WA) in August 2016 to work for HCA Defence. Read Sue’s interview as we talk about her transition from General Hospitals to working On-base at ADF Healthcare Centres and the reasons she decided to work for HCA Defence.

HCA Defence: How did your Nursing career begin?

Sue: I started my Nursing training at age 16 in Rockhampton, QLD in the Hospital-based system and I now live in WA and work for HCA Defence at the HMAS Stirling Base ‚ Garden Island.

HCA Defence: Why do you like working On-base and how do you find the work environment?

Sue: A nice work environment and the team culture is great. The equipment is up to date and stock readily available. I have been very lucky to have a Nurse Coordinator who has lots of experience in Defence to give guidance and advice when needed.

HCA Defence: Tell us about a typical working day?

Sue: I always get in early to try and check the Doctors rooms and do fasting bloods for ADF personnel who need to get to work on time. My morning usually consists of pathology, vaccinations, dressings, daily checks of Out-Patients (OP) and Emergency Room. A fair amount of the day is taken up with following up on pathology recalls/documentation to ensure personnel are reviewed as required.

HCA Defence: Tell us more about your patients and the kind of care you provide? Is it different to Off-base patients?

Sue: The patients consist of Australian Naval members, male and female ranging from 18 to late 50’s. We also have visiting ships from overseas requiring medical care or bloods, involving interpreters. Occasionally Army and Air Force members attend for bloods or medical reviews.

It is quite different to working off-base. I usually develop longer term relationships with ADF Personnel and they hear a lot about my experiences working remotely or travelling overseas. I like to nurture them being a mother/grandmother with lots of life experience.

HCA Defence: What challenges do you face daily?

Sue: Prioritising my work can be challenging as I need to manage pathology recalls and get information up to date. Personnel who walk in for pathology or vaccinations are referred to me by Medics or Medical Officers take priority. It has also taken me some time to get used to different protocols specific to Defence, but I have now learnt the way.

HCA Defence: How do you feel HCA Defence supports you in your role?

Sue: HCA has been a great support. I have unfortunately required some time off for ill health, there has never been an issue with a replacement and the offer of further time off when required.

HCA Defence: What is the most rewarding experience you have had during your career On-base?

Sue: I don’t think I can put it down to one thing. I have often had personnel tell me I am good at my job; this could relate to me talking a lot to take their mind off the procedure. Other instances include female and male Personnel thanking me for my gentle approach and for coming in early to fit in with their busy schedule. It is also nice to get an occasional email from the Lieutenant Commander (LC) of the Health Centre thanking me for my work with recalls. However, I feel this is all part of the job and a team effort.

HCA Defence: Why did you decide to work On-base?

Sue: It appealed to me as I had never worked in a Defence role before. It has given me a new insight into what the Defence Personnel go through in their day to day duties. I also gained experience in the Defence systems which now allows me to work at other bases, which I hope to do in the future. HCA Defence gives me the opportunity to work across other states too.

HCA Defence: Working On-base as a Healthcare Professional demonstrates an admirable level of dedication and commitment to the health and wellbeing of ADF Personnel. What drives you in this role?

Sue: Knowing ADF personnel are deployed for months at a time and are responsible for the Defence and protection of all Australians including me and my family gives me a better insight into their dedication. They are away from their loved ones for so long for our protection, so they deserve the best possible healthcare whilst on home soil, both physical and mental.

HCA Defence: What advice do you have for new recruits?

Sue:Ask lots of questions, never assume you know how things are done and do not do it the way you THINK it should be done. There are protocols to follow which must be adhered to. Earn the respect of the other team members and you cannot go wrong. Take any advice or constructive criticism professionally and learn from it.

HCA Defence: Would you recommend HCA Defence to other Healthcare Professionals?

Sue:Definitely and I hope to work for HCA Defence in the future in other roles if and when I leave WA to continue exploring Australia.

If you would like to work On-base at an ADF Healthcare Centre, register here or email us.


If you would like to discuss your Aged Care Learning needs and how the HCA LMS might match your organisational requirements, contact us today.

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