At the beginning of 2020, Stuart Beattie was Flight Centre’s Product Coordinator for the South Pacific Region (think tropical paradise destinations) but COVID-19 abruptly ended his 25 years travel industry career. Fast forward to 2021 and Stuart found himself working within St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital’s Central Sterile Services Department – and he couldn’t be happier.
Working at basement level and moving around constantly during a shift is a far cry from tropical islands, surrounded by turquoise water. However Stuart never imagined working within a hospital – let alone part of the team who clean, sterilise and organise equipment, ready for the next surgery.
“I was stood down from my Flight Centre role in March 2020 but wasn’t made redundant until October,” Stuart said.
“After a few weeks break, I wrote a post on Facebook saying that I was looking for a new challenge and a friend of a friend got in touch asking if I was interested in trying something new.
“When I heard what was involved I wasn’t sure it was for me,” he said.
However, Stuart found it fascinating.
“I was looking at all sorts of incredible items, and toolboxes you would associate with a tradie and wonder ‘what on earth does that item get used for?’” he said.
“The average person doesn’t really think about surgical instruments and some of the equipment we handle can be worth extraordinary amounts of money.
“Cleaning and sterilisation is just one part of the process but I’ve really found my groove when it’s time to put the trays of sterilised instruments together for surgeries.
“Putting the sets together is like doing a puzzle, we have a printed out list with item names and images.
“Some of the cardiac trays for surgery can contain 200 instruments – every single piece must be included and it must be ordered and correct – it works so well with my OCD,” Stuart laughs.
Stuart is working four days a week and studying his Certificate 3 in Sterilisation Services which is a one year full time course.
“In March last year, I would never have thought I would be here,” he said.
“I had absolutely no idea there were jobs like this – I thought it was like being a glorified cleaner, but making sure the equipment is safe, working properly and ready for a patient who needs surgery is a really important thing.
“I’ve learnt that sterilisation of equipment can be by steam, chemicals, gas – different equipment requires different cycle lengths – it’s not quite like popping everything into the dishwasher!”
Stuart is clearly an enthusiastic employee and eager to learn.
“COVID-19 has been the perfect opportunity to cross over into something new,” he said.
“Never have I ever searched for ‘healthcare’ when looking for a new job but this job was just made for me.
“I told everyone, ‘this is my last first day ever!’” Stuart said.