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Heart of gold drives health passion for Tianna

Heart of gold drives health passion for Tianna

Published:07 September 2017

CQUni Echocardiography student Tianna Rasmussen moved from Bundaberg to Sydney to pursue her passion for heart health.

She has a huge one of her own and soon, Tianna Rasmussen will know everything there is to know about the human heart. The softly spoken, kind-hearted CQUni Echocardiography student packed up life in the small town of Bundaberg to relocate to the hustle and bustle of Sydney – all because she has a passion for hearts.

“When I left school I wasn’t always positive about what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare and being there for people,” Tianna says.

“I thought helping people as a career would be a real strength of mine because I’m a very compassionate person so when I heard about Echocardiography, the idea of specialising in just the heart and looking at them every day, really stood out to me.”

Echocardiographers, or cardiac physiologists, are specialised health professionals who view, analyse and provisionally report on cardiac scans and other cardiac data. They are in demand in many public and private health facilities, and this demand is likely to grow due to the ageing population.

According to 2016 labour data published by the Federal Government, this profession is suffering a chronic workforce shortage across Australia. Nationwide, there is less than one qualified applicant for any advertised position, and that’s good news for those enrolled or considering enrolling in CQUni’s recently-established bachelor degree.

Now in her second year, Tianna recently attended her first clinical placement. “It was at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital and I loved it! That’s really when you get to put everything you learn from a textbook into practice.

“What you see in a textbook for an Electrocardiography or ECG is completely different to how a patient presents for an ECG. It was such a good group of people to work with and everyone was so willing to teach me, answer every question I asked – and there were a lot – and they were just so happy to allow me to look over their shoulders while they worked.”

Based at CQUni’s Sydney campus, Tianna says the facilities available to students are extraordinary and featured state-of-the-art equipment in a hospital-simulated environment that well and truly set them up for their careers as echocardiographers.

“Right from the start, the students have the chance to practice live heart scans on each other and I think it’s great for first years to be scanning straight away. I come onto the campus a couple of times a week to make use of the facilities and am able to use the machines and really get some hands-on practice.

“It wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have the facility and it really puts us ahead of other uni students and allows us to really refine our skills and be best prepared when going on placement.”

Tianna says one of her study highlights so far was getting the opportunity to go to St Jude Medical (Abbott) and learn all about electrophysiology (EP). “We got to use their simulation model, Denis, and practice putting in the guide wires, dilator, catheters, and do ablations and transeptal punctures which was really, really awesome to appreciate what the doctors do in real life!”

Echocardiography lecturer Paula Boucaut says the course was unique in that it gave students straight out of school the ability to train to be accredited cardiac sonographers. “This is a career option that was previously only available to employed persons within the field.”

“Our teaching staff and contributing doctors are not only nationally recognised as some of the best within their field, but we also have international experts contributing to our in-house teaching program. To ensure that our graduates are readily employable, we are multiskillingour students and they are learning everything from the basics of ECG, blood pressure and holter monitoring, through to stress testing and advanced applications in the Cath laboratory such as electrophysiology studies.”

Tianna says she couldn’t wait to go on her next placement. “I’ll be in my third year and my placement will be for a full three months which is really exciting.”

Paula says the pinnacle of the course was the invaluable weeks of arranged clinical placement that students obtain in their fourth year. “This is at the patient bedside, hands-on training in some of the biggest hospitals around the country. Our graduates are going to be highly employable with internationally recognised qualifications.”

Tianna, who’s an avid promoter of the Echocardiography course through a number of mediums, from running a course-specific Instagram page to being an ambassador and mentor to fellow students at her campus, says she one day hopes to return to Bundaberg and practice her profession in the town she calls home.

“I am one of nine children so when I packed up and moved to Sydney it was a really daunting experience to leave everyone behind. It was the first time I’d ever moved house, let alone town or state.

“While I was quite reluctant at first, I knew it was something I had to do for the career I wanted. Even though uni kept me busy, a couple of things that I would tell myself to get me through was that I was so lucky to have such great friends and family to miss and want to be at home with.

“One day I know I’ll end up back in Bundaberg so I can be with my family, but first I want to be in a bigger city, in a bigger hospital, so I can get lots of experience and knowledge so that when I do get back to Bundaberg, I can be the best echocardiographer – cardiac physiologist – I can possibly be.”

CAREER STATS*

National average salary: $89,440 (full-time, before tax, excluding superannuation)

Gender: 71.6% female, 28.4% male

Workplace locations: Private and public hospitals, cardiac clinics, community and health care services and radiology clinics

Future growth: Very strong (due to ageing population)

Skill level: Bachelor degree with graduate diploma (four years full-time when doing Australia's only combined undergraduate/postgraduate course at CQUni)

Alternate career options: When studying the bachelor of echocardiography (cardiac physiology) / Graduate diploma of echocardiography, there are opportunities to finish your study earlier and work as a Measurement Scientist (exit after two years of study) or a Cardiac technician (exit after three years of study).

*Source: Australian Government, Job Outlook