After finishing school and studying resource and environmental management, John Won took a job working on the financial and accounting side of an aged care facility.
Although he enjoyed accounting, John saw a gap in his skill set when the aged care business was looking to expand and needed more nursing staff.
"I thought to myself, if you know how to run the numbers side, then also being a nurse means you could understand and run the nursing side of the business as well."
In 2012 he went back to university and studied a Master of Nursing (Graduate Entry) at Sydney Nursing School. He did one of his placements in the emergency department at Royal North Shore Hospital and he was hooked. He now works there as an emergency nurse and clinical nurse educator, and is also currently studying a Master of Emergency Nursing, for which he was awarded a Susan Wakil Scholarship.
The decision to study nursing really shouldn’t have come as a surprise as the profession runs in the family. John’s parents met after his father was admitted to the Emergency Department of the German hospital where his mother worked as a nurse.
Both his parents had separately migrated to Germany – a country that was desperate for skilled workers at the time of the Korean war ceasefire. After they married, his dad, an engineer, won a contract to build the sugar mills in Mackay, Queensland. They immigrated to Australia, where John was born.
"Before studying nursing I often thought about the cost of providing healthcare. But nurses don’t think like that, they think about the cost of poor health and how to achieve better health outcomes."
Studying emergency nursing has meant John can carry his nursing skills and his business acumen into the aged care sector, where he works in a job sharing arrangement while also working at Royal North Shore Hospital.
"Now, and even more so in the future, there’s going to be a huge skills gap in nursing. It’s going to be more important that we offer acute level care services to older people in their homes.
"At the aged care facility, we don’t need to send people to hospital because we can do things for people in their homes.
"Emergency departments are not nice places for older people. The lights are always on and it’s an unfamiliar environment. If a person has dementia or they’re confused, it can be a disorientating place for them. Working in aged care has taught me that and I can help make a difference for the elderly patients in our emergency department.
"People want to stay at home and receive the care they need in their own environment. If we can upskill aged care or community nurses to critical care level, that’s the best scenario for older people and it’s also the best outcome for the emergency department."