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Myrniong trauma nurse's service
***Jane Devlin, CFA volunteer is being profiled as part of a special series focusing on volunteers to celebrate National Volunteer Week May 12-18.
Jane Devlin, mother of three sons and a CFA firefighter typifies the ethos of volunteering in the community.
Somehow, Jane succeeds in balancing her busy life as a mother of three sons; a firefighter; a school councillor; and her demanding career as a nursing sister in one of Melbourne’s busiest Intensive Care Units at the Alfred Hospital.
Jane’s nursing spans more than thirty years and much of that time has been spent caring for critically ill or injured patients.
“Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a nurse,” Jane says. “I started my training in Adelaide then completed it at the Preston and Northern Hospital in Melbourne. “There were many struggles along the way but I managed to eventually achieve my goal,” she says.
At the Alfred for more than twenty years, Jane nurses patients that are seriously ill or injured, and some that are admitted with severe burns. “It’s challenging nursing in the trauma unit. At times it’s highly emotional particularly when meeting with the patient’s family,” she said.
“Every shift in the hospital is different and how you end the shift sometimes depends on the state of mind you’re in when you begin at the start of the day. When I finish I try to put it all behind me when I leave the hospital. “If I’m faced with the trauma of burns victims I avoid thinking too much about it. For me It’s about creating a mental barrier in my mind between what I do on the fire ground and my work in the ICU of the Alfred hospital,” she adds.
Jane says the demanding nature of nursing in a trauma unit was captured in a TV documentary - “A Matter of Life and Death” that was set in the Alfred Hospital in which she appears. “It can be distressing at times but it’s also an incredibly diverse and satisfying job.”
On other days, Jane is at the local Bacchus Marsh hospital working in either the emergency department or the surgical unit.
Away from her hospital commitments Jane delivers fire safety education to primary and secondary schools around Myrniong; a small semirural community near Bacchus Marsh. Her three sons, Thomas, James, and Douglas, all attended local schools in Myrniong and Bacchus Marsh. Their dedicated Mum has also served on their school councils for about ten years.
Jane, and her husband Lindsay, joined CFA’s Myrniong fire brigade about 12 years ago to learn more about fire risk and protection of their fifty acre property at Pentland Hills. Over the years she has done all the training required to become a fully qualified CFA volunteer firefighter and that commitment was rewarded during summer this year when Jane was appointed as crew leader on a Myrniong fire brigade tanker that was deployed to fight a major bushfire that started at Mickleham and spread progressively over several days to Kilmore about 30 kilometres away.
At one point there were more than 600 fire fighters, 120 fire trucks and four aircraft working hard to contain the Kilmore bushfire, including Jane Devlin’s crew from Myrniong. Days later the bushfire continued to threaten many communities in the Wallan, Kilmore and Romsey districts.
Jane says she and husband Lindsay were a tag team that day. He returned in the tanker from the Kilmore fire and handed over to his wife and her crew. “It was an early morning start for our crew. We worked all day on the fireground doing mainly asset protection around houses and properties that were under direct threat from the bushfire,” she said.
“It was very satisfying to put all my training into action, even though I had to use my loud speaker voice to be heard by the other crew members above the noise of the bushfire. But it all went well and we finally finished our shift at about 1am the next morning.”
Being in the fire brigade is not all about bushfires. The Myrniong fire brigade close to the busy Western Freeway – the main road between Melbourne and Ballarat also attends local road accidents.
“Our fire brigade is often called out to rescue or clean up at motor vehicle collisions, but my husband Lindsay usually attends those incidents,” Jane said. “Working in hospital ICU’s I see the patients that come in from these traumatic events, so that’s why I’m not so keen to expose myself too much to brigade turnouts to crashes. After these traumatic incidents we debrief and there’s always fantastic peer group and additional support to help you if you are affected by the incident,” Jane added.
Fire fighting and volunteering go hand in hand with Jane Devlin.
Perhaps it was natural for Jane Devlin to join the fire brigade after all. Her family – the Weir’s are steeped in service with fire brigades. Her great-great grandfather, Thomas Weir was an early member of the Echuca fire brigade and served for more than 50 years.
Her grand-father was also a volunteer at Echuca; and her brother Gary was a volunteer fire fighter with the Country Fire Service in South Australia and later with the Royal Australian Air Force. In all, the Weir family, with Jane and husband Lindsay have given more than 135 years of service to fire brigades.
“Volunteering is an important part of my life’” explains Jane. “In many ways it’s a great learning tool that provides many skills that you learn helping people in times of danger or when they most need community help.”
“It has also given me a much broader understanding and respect for people who go out and do work in the community whether as a volunteer or full time job”. Jane says.