Years of travelling and working in health care settings around the globe opened the eyes of Flinders University PhD candidate Anne Mette Adams to a world of opportunity in health and care research.
Trained in Denmark as a nurse, Mette worked as a critical care and high acuity nurse in her home country as well as in Norway and throughout Australia, exposing herself to differing standards of care.
“I think when you travel a lot and you work in health care settings in different countries, you start to notice that there are many ways that care is provided. You start to recognise good care and when care is suboptimal,” she says.
“After 10 years of clinical experience I felt like I had two choices – either keep working on the floor and pretend not to see the sub-optimal care, or step up and say, ‘no, things need to change’.
“That required courage and fearlessness.”
Mette arrived in Australia in 2008 and as an international student undertook a Graduate Diploma in Critical Care at Flinders University.
Along the way she fell in love with a young medical student – who is now her husband – giving her good reason to stay in Australia and continue with her academic studies.
Since then, she and husband Max have travelled to Alice Springs and Darwin for work, before heading back to Norway where their two children were born.
They eventually came back to Adelaide, Australia, where Mette worked at Flinders as an Associate Lecturer.
In 2012 she gained a Master’s degree at Flinders before taking on an Honours and eventually landing a PhD scholarship.
Mette is now working with her Flinders University and Aalborg University supervisors on her PhD which is exploring agitated patient behaviours in the intensive care unit.
Her aim is to develop person-centred practice guidelines on non-pharmacological approaches to prevent, minimise and manage agitated behaviours.
“Many patients are suffering from agitation, restlessness and distress, and they have difficulties communicating their needs,” she says.
Medication is often needed to treat underlying causes of agitated behaviours in Intensive Care Unit patients. Photo by Getty Images.
Mette is hoping to submit her thesis in 2023 and admits that with the rewards of pursuing a PhD, so too come the challenges. She’s had to adjust to the slower-paced and solo nature of her studies in comparison to the bustling, collaborative environment of a hospital intensive care unit.
“As an ICU nurse you feel like you’re making a difference on a daily basis, but when you do a PhD, you don’t see the changes straight away,” she says.
“I need to remind myself that I will make a real impact to a lot of people. So when I see my publications cited that makes me really happy and I know that I’m making a difference.”
Mette’s key to success so far includes adopting wellbeing practices into her daily routine, including rising early and staying active.
“I finish work at 4.30pm and I always go for a run and listen to podcasts. I think different when I’m out in nature and often stop to write notes,” she says.
“It really puts everything into perspective. I also keep work and family separate so I try not to work in the evenings or on weekends. My supervisors have taught be me work smarter, not harder.”
Her advice for budding PhD candidates is to believe in yourself, invest in a topic you’re passionate about and take time to find a good supervisor.
“Look at the backgrounds of the supervisors and their careers, meet with them and don’t be afraid to go with your gut feeling,” Mette says.
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