Blue sky thinking
Flight attendant swaps blue skies for scrubs .
By Eleanor Campbell
While standing on a church roof with a group of schoolchildren in Papua New Guinea , Louise Dingle , a former flight attendant and trained psychotherapist , had an epiphany . The 59-year-old had spent decades exploring the world , seeing first-hand the impacts of the lack of health services and infrastructure in developing countries .
One day , while helping some local kids install a satellite dish onto a tin roof , Louise noticed a group of pregnant women , waiting on the side of the road for a bus to the local hospital . Hours passed , and the bus never came . “ I felt a combination of compassion towards them and then anger at the injustice of them not having anything ,” Louise told Nursing Review .
“ I just got sick and tired of the health disparities between us and the countries that are only 30 minutes away .
“ I got down off the roof and said to the priest , ‘ I ’ m coming back as a nurse .’”
After almost 36 years in aviation , Louise took the plunge in 2020 and left her
24 | nursingreview . com . au lifelong love of flying to pursue a career in nursing . She chose to enrol in a three-year nursing diploma at Mater University . By that point , just over a million people had died worldwide from the COVID-19 virus .
“ I realised very strongly from my refugee work over 20 years that this would go on for a long time ,” Louise says .
“ And I figured with my mental health background , the two things that would be significant would be health promotion , vaccinations and mental health .
“ I know if we come together collectively in health , we can make enormous changes , and I decided I was going to be part of it .”
Leaping into one of the most stressful professions of the times , the Queensland native says , has been exciting , overwhelming and also nerve-wracking .
Her experiences as an airline pilot trainer , psychotherapist and refugee worker , she says , has helped motivate her through a new learning journey .
“ I think it ’ s just trusting yourself that you can do it and to just work out the details afterwards . I think that ’ s the way to go ,” she says .
“ I always tell my kids , because I ’ ve become a bit of a mother duck in my
“ If we come together collectively in health , we can make enormous changes .
group , that if you ask for help and you get that good support , then you really can do anything .”
With plans to graduate in May , Louise hopes to travel to America to sit the NCLEX nursing exam .
She also wishes to become a travel nurse , flying from country to country to assist with health education and promotion .
One of the greatest motivations for her career , Louise says , is to push changes to allow nurses to spend more time with their patients .
“ When I used to fly , I used to say that the best thing about being cabin crew is if you can make the patient feel part of the team ,” she says .
“ I think the same thing with nursing : that a person doesn ’ t feel like a number . They feel like they ’ re with a friend , that they ’ re with someone who cares .
“ What we need is nurses to be able to have time to sit beside their patients and truly connect with them .” ■