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Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science - Occasional Speaker: Associate Professor Karen Bradley

Sunday, 13 September

Associate-Professor Karen Bradley, Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer for WA.


The Honourable Dr Hendy Cowan: Chancellor, Professor Steve Chapman: Vice-Chancellor, distinguished guests and faculty, proud family and friends and most importantly Graduates

I’m so delighted to be here with you this evening to help celebrate your achievements and I’d like to start by offering my congratulations to each and every one of you on your success.

Tonight is the culmination of what I’m sure has been a challenging and hopefully also a very rewarding experience. You’ll be feeling a great range of emotions, relief that you’ve made it, pride in your abilities, a sense of reward in the recognition of your qualification and perhaps also a sense of excitement, trepidation and expectation as you think ahead to the next leg of your journey and what adventures and opportunities that will bring.

I feel very humble and blessed to have to have been asked to address you at such a special and significant time. But I have to admit to being just a little nervous about the responsibility, what possible words of wisdom and inspiration could I hope to find for such an amazing group on the verge of the rest of their careers?

So I’ve decided to speak to you about the ‘why’ - because you clearly have the ‘what’ sewn up, in the bag, achieved and mastered. But it’s the ‘why’ that will now take you places.

Around 26 years ago I was sitting in your shoes, graduating with my first degree from Edith Cowan University or the WA College of Advanced Education as it was then known.

Now I still like to consider myself as a young health care professional but as I was reflecting on my experience in preparation for this evening, I realised that my journey has been long and my undergraduate experience was certainly a very different experience to the one which you have no doubt had…so not as young as I’d like to think.

In 1986 I was part of the second intake of a brand new nursing school housed at what was then referred to as the 'teachers college in Nedlands with no purpose build facilities; we studied alongside teachers who were majoring in home economics and physical education. We spend much of our time down the road at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital using the nursing and medical school facilities.

We later moved to the Churchlands campus, which is now a housing estate, into a wonderful new nursing school with our own dedicated lecture theatres and clinical skills laboratories.

Nothing was taught on-line, we didn’t use email or the internet. I typed my assignments on a type writer, our presentations were all hand written on to acetate sheets and projected onto screens with overhead projectors. We spent a lot of time in libraries using micro-fiches and found our hard copy books and journal articles in big catalogues with index cards. When we weren’t in the clinical setting we spent all our time on campus attending lectures and tutorials or at the pub where of course I’m sure we discussed the learnings from the day and debated nursing theories!

We were commonly known as the WACAE nurses (the acronym of the college) with bright purple uniforms and were frequently accosted in the street and in supermarket queues by total strangers wanting to debate the value of degree qualified nurses as opposed to the traditional hospital training.

So fast forward to today and to your experience.

Nurses, midwives and other professionals are bachelor degree qualified as the standard, you have access to the most amazing technology to enhance your learning experience, facilitated by world class academics and researchers, you’re learning can be done in any place at any time, information from around the world is accessible at your desktop, your high fidelity simulation learning environments have almost human patients who can speak, have a pulse and provide feedback in real time where you can test out your skills without harming anyone!

But the more I reflected on the great differences in our education experiences, I also thought about the things that haven’t changed…the elements that have stayed the same.

And for me they are the human element of our endeavours and the opportunity to use what we have learnt to serve others. It’s the ’why’ we do what we do.

No matter what your degree, the topic of your research or thesis I’m sure there will be some relevance to a motivation and a desire to contribute your knowledge and skills to advancing our understanding of the environment and of each other, our health and our quality and way of life, to address inequities in our society and to improve the lives of the most vulnerable of our population.

What an amazing contribution you have and will continue to make to our community.

So I’m standing here before you tonight as the Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer in Western Australia and real proof that anything is possible.

At Uni I was a very solid, consistent C+ student. I was never one for planning my career, for setting long term goals, and never overly ambitious. I did spend time worrying about my career choices, where was I heading, what path should I take.

But I was motivated by a sense of wanting to achieve, to constantly need to move forward and learn new things, to be challenged and to serve and put others before myself.

I have worked in the health care industry for 26 years and my qualification has taken me to great places, I’ve moved across the private and public sector, in metropolitan and rural and remote health services, and had a variety of clinical, education, management and executive positions.

And what I’ve eventually realised was it wasn’t so much the choices I made, what I did or the jobs I had, it was more about the person I’d become, who I was and how I conducted myself, my approach and being open to learning and developing, it was the why, my sense of purpose.

So I thought I’d share the 3 key things that have made a difference in my career in the hope.

  1. Enjoy what you do – don’t waste time worrying about what your career should look like, what you want to be when you grow up - your career and life journey will be absolutely unique – will be guided by each experience and decision and will only make sense in hindsight – so be mindful, stay in the moment and make the best of each experience.
  2. Take every opportunity that comes your way – say yes and try new things - this will test your abilities and you’ll learn more about yourself than you could ever imagine, it will stretch you and challenge you - you will become more resilient from trying, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding – you’ll be terrified and vulnerable - you’ll find out about your strengths and what you need to work on - never stop learning and growing.
  3. Developing you – your leadership, relationships and networks will be the most important attributes in taking your career forward – invest in being the best leader and team member you can possibly be – ask for advice from mentors and from those you admire - build your networks - lead and be guided by your values - remember your ‘why’ - others will notice.

So you’ve taken the first step, you’ve shown up, you’ve strived and achieved an amazing goal, you have an incredible gift.

Your qualifications will be a major asset in your career but it’s just the platform from which you will leap and grow.

How will you take this achievement and share it with the world?

Emerson said “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Congratulations and thank you.

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