Women’s Health Week stories: Ashleigh Woods

In acknowledgement of Women Health Week in the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we are taking a look at the story of a Gold Coast-trained nurse and midwife who is currently working the emergency department during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From an early age, Ashleigh Woods knew she wanted to be a nurse and a midwife.

“In primary school we had a teacher come in and talk to us about where babies come from and I actually first helped to deliver a baby from a stocking in front of the whole class and I thought it was the most awesome thing ever,” she says.

Ashleigh signed up for the Bachelor of Nursing at Southern Cross University, then completed postgraduate studies in midwifery, where the SCU sim labs assisted her with her practical skills.

“I think they’re first class. They simulate a hospital environment and you get to work with sim dolls and dolls that breathe and they cry and you can do all sorts of things,” she recalls.

A year volunteering with a program in Nepal saw Ashleigh cement her love for working in women’s health, before she returned to the Gold Coast and landed a position as a Registered Nurse and Midwife at The Tweed Hospital.

Enter 2020, and for Ashleigh, it’s no longer just about delivering babies. As with most health professionals around the world, she has utilised her additional training to adapt to the healthcare needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Accredited in Advanced Life Support, Ashleigh has just begun working in an Airway role in the resuscitation room in the Emergency Department. The resuscitation teams include a doctor, nurse, someone dedicated to the patient’s airway, someone looking after their circulation and a team leader.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure the person’s breathing is maintained and if they need oxygen to administer it, to make sure they don’t have any blockages, then monitor their breathing,” she said.

“We all work in Emergency and we all love trauma care, you kind of have to be into that to be able to cope. It’s not that scary because that’s what we enjoy doing, we enjoy helping.”

Ashleigh is just one of the many nurses and other staff now braving the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Northern NSW Local Health District is already recruiting new staff and training existing staff in the additional skills needed to work in ICU, as well as other areas of the hospital.

“Not all nurses can work in critical care or in ICU,” Ashleigh said.

“I can ventilate someone as an Emergency Nurse but not in the long term, I don’t have that training.”

“We’re all on the spot now. You just become flexible, you adapt and do what you need to do and overcome it.”

When asked what she liked most about nursing, Ashleigh reminisces about a past patient at St Vincent’s Hospital in Lismore whom she managed to win over, despite the fact that he took a strong dislike to every other staff member and nurse.

“Nursing is so different to being a doctor, as a nurse you’re really the one providing that compassionate care to patients, and you’re there for them. You’re there for them when they want to talk.”

Click here to find out more about the Bachelor of Nursing at SCU.


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