Nurse/Soldier, Teacher/Firefighter: Meet the 'slashies' pursuing their passion with more than one role

These La Trobe slashies have carried their passion for helping others into diverse portfolio careers: from teaching teens and nursing patients, to rolling out COVID testing and helping disaster-stricken communities.

Changes in technology, thinking and workforce demographics have transformed the way we work over the years. The concept of having one job for life is outdated, and we’re more likely to change professions and industries, upskilling along the way. For many of us, chasing all our dreams at once, and re-casting our hobbies and passion as work, has become an ongoing aspiration.

So, when you’re struggling to choose your next career move, in a world of work that’s ever-changing – how do you keep up? Many people are opting to volunteer or get a side gig, which has given rise to the multi-job worker: the ‘slashie’.

But can being a slashie really be satisfying? Find out from these two inspiring La Trobe alumni, who’ve combined careers in surprising ways and found personal fulfilment by working multiple gigs.

Lieutenant Bart Arundell’s identity is as much a nurse, as it is a soldier

La Trobe Bundoora alumnus Lieutenant Bart Arundell has a Bachelor of Nursing (2010) and Graduate Diploma of Nursing (Intensive Care) (2019) from La Trobe, and will add a Master of Nursing (Intensive Care) to his qualifications as one of our Class of 2020.

In addition to working as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Intensive Care Unit at Box Hill Hospital, Bart’s also in the Army Reserve, having followed in the footsteps of his uncle. While, at first glance these two career paths seem divergent, for Bart, there’s a strong connection.

Bart attributes his passion for nursing to an encounter he had as an infantry soldier, when he sustained injuries and required surgery to both legs.

“I was fortunate enough to be cared for by an incredible nurse during my recovery phase,” he says.

The experience fuelled Bart’s desire to make a meaningful impact in people’s lives and nursing was the perfect way to achieve this.

As a slashie, Bart’s identity is as much a nurse, as it is a soldier. This year, Bart was promoted to a Commissioned Officer, coordinating the Australian Defence Force’s COVID-19 testing response in Victoria. He says his studies in nursing at La Trobe, and the skills he gained, contributed to his success in Operation COVID-19 Assist (OP C19A).

“Being able to apply that level of analysis and critical thinking has helped me navigate obstacles on OP C19A that I wouldn’t have been able to without the skills I’ve gained from La Trobe.”

The skills you master in one of your roles can often be applied to the other role, leading you to develop transferable skills essential to career progression. For Bart, both roles are equally rewarding and fulfill his desire to positively impact people’s lives.

Cameron Whelan’s varied portfolio career is packed with slashes

La Trobe Bendigo alumnus Cameron Whelan (Graduate Diploma in Technology Education, 2007) works as a full-time teacher at Horsham College. When not teaching high school students, he volunteers as captain of the Warracknabeal Fire Brigade.

Cameron does not miss a beat, always eager to help those around him.

“I’m getting so much more from my job when helping others, especially those less fortunate,” he says in a recent interview.

Growing up in central Victoria on a farm, Cameron was always exposed to the work of the Country Fire Authority, the state’s volunteer fire service. Influenced by his firefighter father, Cameron became involved in the fire brigade at the age of 16. Almost three decades later, he’s still helping protect communities from disaster, most recently during the 2019-20 Black Summer Bushfires.

Simultaneously, Cameron has developed a varied portfolio career packed with slashes. He initially started an apprenticeship with the Australian Defence Force, then later worked at GrainCorp, before indulging his passion for teaching.

He says working full-time and volunteering on the side has allowed him to follow multiple interests, diversify his skill sets and find a deep sense of accomplishment.

“When you love something and you have a passion for something, regardless of what it is, you can add value to that by helping someone else. The reward is that growth in that person. I think that’s the true meaning of why I do what I do.”

With the traditional ‘nine-to-five’ routine becoming a thing of the past, more and more people are building careers filled with slashes. Creative thinkers driven by passion, like La Trobe alumni Bart and Cameron, have discovered the answer is to indulge all their dreams at once. So, if you’re struggling to choose your next career – why choose one? Instead, become a slashie.