A former international student’s battle with childhood respiratory illness has propelled him to the frontline of Queensland’s COVID-19 health response.
Filipino Suharto ‘Jao’ Jundam, 25, completed a Master of Nursing at Griffith University last year.
Since then, the registered nurse has been working at Redcliffe Hospital managing patients in its Medical Assessment Ward, including those presenting with COVID-19 symptoms.
Suffering asthma at a young age, Jao spent time in and out of hospitals.
He subsequently developed a first-hand appreciation of nursing at a young age which evolved into a specialisation in acute care.
“In acute care, I’d normally be tending to patients suffering non-chronic conditions like acute cardiac chest pain,” he said.
“But in recent months, that has extended to patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms.”
While his asthma is under control now, Mr Jundam spent time hooked up to nebulisers and other equipment as a young child.
“I’d always been pulled to nursing, but having had a challenging condition myself, acute care became a real passion for me,” he said.
“(Nursing) is a vocation: you choose to serve people no matter who they are, what their circumstances are, or what they’re in need of.”
Mr Jundam was part of a national wave of former and current international students which stepped up to help the hospital and aged care system across Australia at the height of COVID-19.
International students in relevant medica disciplines had their 40 hour per fortnight work restrictions waived as part of temporary Federal Government health initiatives.
“I love being part of a multi-disciplinary team,” he said.
“There’s much more to the role than the health component – supporting the mental welfare of patients has been very important during COVID-19.
“When people are presenting, they can be experiencing a lot of anxiety, especially when they’re waiting for test results. It's important that we, as nurses, are there for the patient during that time.”
In 2019, there were 4159 students from the Philippines enrolled in Queensland’s education system – a 176% increase on 2016 enrolments from the country.
Mr Jundam first visited Australia in 2015. The trip convinced him to return in 2017 to commence studies, which culminated in attaining his Masters at Griffith University in 2019.
Mr Jundam has been based at Redcliffe Hospital since August. Prior his current appointment, he spent time as an agency nurse at the Prince Charles, Mater and Princess Alexandria hospitals.