“I've always been interested in how the body works and what happens when we get sick,” says Justin Flestado. “And I want to help fix it.”
Inspired by the character of Dr John Carter in the popular television series ER, Flestado, who graduated from UTS with a Bachelor of Nursing in 2010, initially wanted to be a doctor. Luckily, he had a back-up plan after he missed out on getting into medicine.
“I was offered a place at UTS to do nursing, and it was a great decision because I’ve loved it ever since. It’s very challenging, but I do like a challenge.”
Flestado is currently working at the Prince of Wales Hospital, specialising in urology, vascular and gastrointestinal surgeries.
“Typically, our patients have had something in their bowel removed, have had prostate or bladder surgery, or have had their leg ulcers surgically cleaned out. They then come to us after surgery.
“With such a high turnover of patients, you’ve really got to think on your feet and watch out for complications post-op.” He says the fast-paced days are what cemented his decision to specialise in surgical nursing.
“Also, this ward was where I was on my second rotation of my grad program. I love the work and I love the people, so why go elsewhere?”
Consisting of two six-month rotations, the hospital’s new graduate program is a path many nurses take after graduating.
“It helps you transition from being a student, where you’re constantly supervised, to being completely on your own. You pretty much gain most of the basics in the first couple of months. I have to admit, it was very daunting at the start, but you get a lot of support from the senior nurses and educators.”
As a recent graduate, Flestado has been happy to be a part of the Men in Nursing forum presented by the Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health. The forum targets young male school-leavers thinking of studying nursing at university and gives them insight into what happens in the real world, as opposed to the ‘TV version’ of nursing.
“Let’s face it, TV shows often portray nursing as this mindless occupation where we do whatever the doctor says and questioning the doc’s decision is frowned upon.
“In reality, we’re consulted on what the next step is for the patient and suggest certain things because we’re always at their bedside.”
The other stereotype the forum seeks to break is the attitude that “it's not manly to be a nurse”, explains Flestado, adding that a fifth of the nurses in his ward alone are male.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the proportion of males in nursing has increased from 7.9 per cent in 2005 to 9.6 per cent in 2009. Flestado says the forum is important because it encourages more male high school students to consider nursing as a profession.
“It’s not a question of gender. It’s whether you’re competent and whether you like it.”
Looking after sick people, Flestado says he now can’t help but have a positive outlook on life. He recalls working one New Year’s Eve and complaining he couldn’t go out as he was also working an early shift the next morning.
“Then we had a 26-year-old backpacker come in complaining of a headache and dizziness. Turns out he had an inoperable brain tumour. So while we can complain about the little things, we should just be thankful for what we’ve got.”