A former international student’s battle with childhood respiratory illness has propelled him to the frontline of Queensland’s COVID-19 health response.

Griffith University Master of Nursing graduate Suharto ‘Jao’ Jundam has been working at Redcliffe Hospital managing patients in the Medical Assessment Ward, including those presenting with COVID-19 symptoms.

Mr Jundam said he developed a first-hand appreciation of nursing at a young age after spending time in hospital because of his asthma.

‘[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 said.

‘I’d always been pulled to nursing, but having had a challenging condition myself, acute care became a real passion for me.’

The 25-year-old Filipino graduate was among a wave of former and current international students who stepped up to help the hospital and aged care system across Australia cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government temporarily waived the students’ 40 hour per fortnight work to ensure they were able to provide support when needed.

Prior his current appointment at Redcliffe Hospital, Mr Jundam spent time as an agency nurse at the Prince Charles, Mater and Princess Alexandria hospitals.

He said being part of the multi-disciplinary team at Redcliffe Hospital was rewarding.

‘There’s much more to the role than the health component – supporting the mental welfare of patients has been very important during COVID-19,’ Mr Jundam said.

‘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.’

Study Queensland has introduced a range of support initiatives as part of the Queensland International Student Crisis Assistance Package to help international students during the COVID-19 pandemic.