Thursday, October 30, 2014

what I'm learning about Australia

*written by Suzanne

A few random facts I have learned about Australia since coming here.....

I am loving life here in my husbands homeland,  and thought I'd share few things from the American perspective.   : )

(for most of these, I grabbed photos from google just to show you what I'm talking about)

1- You can see exotic birds just sitting on the power line in this country...(that's a Cockatoo)

and if you have food for them they might perch on your shoulder :)

2- $1 frozen cokes are really popular and really delicious
(do we even have these at fast food restaurants in the states??)
I especially like mine with ice cream in it.  :)

3- kids wear uniforms like these to private schools:
I think the little kids look super cute, but I'd be pretty over wearing that hat by the time I graduated.  The hat is mandatory from what I've heard.
also...another fun fact...Nick was never required to wear shoes to school until high school..they just walked around barefoot and that was normal.

4- Jacaranda trees are beautiful and they smell good

5-  in Sydney, there are signs painted onto the road which are probably there to help keep Americans from being run over by cars

6- Australians think you have to have a kit to make s'mores (we found these at Aldi) :)

7- Australians have the game "snakes and ladders" instead of "chutes and ladders", and they eat gummy snakes instead of gummy worms.

8-  Milo is a heavenly invention, and so are Tim-Tams

9- Russell Crowe lives in Australia, and owns a rugby team called the "South Sydney Rabbitohs", and I like them because their name is fun to say.  
They recently won the NRL Grand Final, which was in Sydney while we were there visiting.  Also, I now understand why American football players get made fun of by Australians for wearing so much gear, because these guys wear no helmets at all, and beat each other up every game.

10-  Bike riders are often seen with zip ties sticking out from the top of their helmet, and the reason is to discourage magpies from dive-bombing their heads while they are riding.  
A magpie swooped down at me several times when I was walking home the other day, and it was pretty scary! It definitely made me duck, so I can see why bikers would find that distracting.  And they look so fashionable too.    : )

11- This is called a Huntsman, and I saw one on the wall at a friends' house and once was enough for me. 

(apparently though, they aren't very dangerous.  But Nick's instructions to me about Australian bugs was  "if it looks mean it probably is poisonous".  I think I'll just keep away from insects.)

And this just made me laugh... :)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

why is Suzanne working as a sterile tech?

Good news everyone!  I have a job here in Australia!

I'm working at a hospital here in Brisbane called St Andrews War Memorial, in their Central Service/Sterilisation Department.

 SO thankful to have employment for these short months before we go to France at the end of the year.

 Why is Suzanne working as a sterile tech?
Two reasons:

I don't have my Australian nursing license yet.  I've submitted all the required documentation, and (as of August) my application is under review.  It can take many months to get an answer.  So, at the moment, I can't work as an RN here.

reason number 2 (and this is the main reason)  is kind of a long story.

It starts in March 2014 when I was still working on the ship in the Republic of Congo, with a coffee date with my friend Christina.  I knew Christina was running a special teaching program, and I asked her to tell me more about it over coffee.

Christina is a sterile technician (someone who cleans and manages the care of the instruments used  in the operating room), and at home in Canada, Christina is a classroom instructor in sterile processing.

 After working with Mercy Ships, and seeing the need for improved sterilization practices West African hospitals, Christina founded the organization Sterile Processing Education and Charitable Trust (  The goal of SPECT is to improve practices in West Africa through teaching and evaluation in local hospitals.

At our coffee date I loved hearing about Christina's work, and I was thrilled when she invited me to come on a hospital assessment with her the next day. I got a first hand look at what sterilization looks like in West Africa.  And what I saw made me realize that when a surgeon begins an operation in West Africa, it is very unlikely that the instruments are clean.

This is what sterile processing looks like in the countries we visit with the ship:
 (these were taken by Christina in a variety of West African hospitals, they give a good general idea of the challenges in many facilities)

The sterile processing areas are often dirty and disorganised, and create a very unsafe working environment

Lack of knowledge in microbiology and lack of training leads to improper use of equipment 

Dirty and clean instruments are often mixed together in the same area 

and staff are not provided with adequate cleaning products or protective equipment.

Christina also invited me to attend a class she was teaching to employees of a local public hospital in Pointe-Noire, and I loved every minute of it!  I ended up helping her out over the next couple months. Mostly I helped set up and attended classes whenever I could, and after she went home to Canada I conducted follow up visits at each Pointe-Noire hospital which had received the training.

Here are a few photos from classtime....

here, Christina is teaching proper hand washing techniques...

and showing employees how to properly use some of the equipment they already had in their hospital

here's me helping out with snack break...

and a group photo of the whole class

Throughout this season, I became convinced that teaching is desperately needed in this area. So convinced, that when I returned to the states I spent the months of May and June preparing and studying to be a sterile technician.  Not because I want a career change, but because I think this is such valuable knowledge to have.  I passed the exam, and completed an internship at a surgery center in my home town.  

So for now, the deal is that I have passed this exam, and to keep my  license I need 400 hours in sterilizing before the end of December.  The whole idea is that down the road I will be equipped to continue assisting hospitals with this specialty, and continue partnering with SPECT whenever possible.   Eventually, I'd love to take a job as an operating room nurse, so the things I'm learning as a sterile tech are very applicable- right now I am really enjoying learning to identify all sorts of instruments.

So, that is why I am working as a sterile tech.  Nick and I are so thankful for the way God provides for all our needs, and this job is one of the many ways we see God opening the doors for us.

some adventures

after our wedding, we spent a long honeymoon travelling together, and had plenty of adventures!

on our way towards Australia, we visited Tahiti and New Zealand

one of our favourite days in Tahiti- we borrowed kayaks from the owner of the place we were staying and spent the afternoon on an empty little island

so many beautiful sunsets!

Next stop was New Zealand

we travelled around the north island with a camper van...

here's our awesome green camping van

and we've been catching up with Mercy Shippers wherever we find them.....

and here's a photo of Suzanne experiencing Australian wildlife...

and now we are settling into life here in lovely Brisbane!