Michiko Ban, 45, has been a McGrath Breast Care Nurse for two years and is based at The Mater Hospital in Sydney.
Nursing is seen as a solid career choice, but it wasn’t when Michiko decided to become a nurse in her native Japan over 20 years ago.
It was considered to be a ‘Three-K’ job, because the words dirty, dangerous and hard all start with the letter K in Japanese.
“My mum was a nurse. She is extremely passionate about it but when she said she wanted to be a nurse everyone told her not to. At that time the job was considered to be dirty, dangerous and hard. It wasn’t a popular job and normally parents would tell their daughters not to do it,” Michiko says.
“When I mentioned to mum that I wanted to be a nurse, she told me, ‘If you really want to be a nurse, you can try, but please do not be a nurse without passion. Do not do it if you just want to have a job.’”
The passion kicked in quickly.
“When I did the practical lessons, I found I really liked spending time with a patient, talking and learning from them. They have so much history in their lives, I enjoy listening to them and when they smile, I see the beauty of the human being,” she says.
“I thought, ‘This is my job, I can do it.’”
“With breast cancer you often don’t see an injury and patients can keep how they really feel inside.”
When Michiko emigrated to Australia 17 years ago, she retrained with the Australian Catholic University, who offered a course for nurses that had been trained overseas.
Michiko was working on the oncology ward at The Mater hospital in Sydney when she would occasionally fill in for the breast care nurses and found she really enjoyed the collaborative approach of working as part of a multidisciplinary team, which can include oncologists, surgeons and social workers, to help patients.
She was a breast care nurse for five years and has been a McGrath Breast Care Nurse for two years. For her, being part of the McGrath Foundation offers an additional level of support.
“It is more structured, there are protocols and systems in place that help you do a better job and provide more support for the patients,” Michiko says.
“The connection to nurses from other hospitals is wonderful. I feel we know each other better, can contact each other easily and provide more comfort for the patients. If they have to go to a different hospital for treatment we tell the McGrath Breast Care Nurse there and the patient feels comforted that someone is there to look after them.
“We work well together and through the McGrath Foundation we have meetings with other nurses in the lower north shore to discuss how to look after patients more effectively.”
Michiko sees her role as offering patient-centered care.
“Each person has a different way of supporting patients, but for McGrath Breast Care Nurses we always bring it back to that. We try to involve patients in their treatment, give them information and empower them to make their own decisions,” she says.
“With breast cancer you often don’t see an injury and patients can keep how they really feel inside, they don’t want to be a burden on the family so we are there to support them emotionally and psychologically. Sometimes they just want to speak a little bit and we are there for them when they want to talk.
“Before becoming a nurse, I didn’t realise how much psychological support we provide to patients. It’s part of the human relationship, talking to them, having a connection with them and supporting them when they are having a difficult time.”