Written By

Nicolette Ward


College of Healthcare Sciences

Publish Date

11 May 2022

Related Study Areas

Oh, the places you'll go... with nursing

Unexpectedly leaving school after Year 11, Emma Parker still had her heart set on becoming a nurse. Determined to follow her dream, Emma pursued a unique pathway and successfully reached her goal despite an unconventional beginning to her studies.

After completing a Certificate III and IV in Aged Care Support and working in the sector as an Assistant in Nursing, Emma applied for an alternative entry into JCU’s Bachelor of Nursing Science course.

“Studying and working in aged care really gave me an advantage, not only as a pathway to doing my degree at JCU, but also in being able to work in the aged care sector throughout my degree,” Emma says.

“This work also helped me to gain a lot of clinical exposure to nursing while providing me with a regular income as a student. And because I was working casually, I could adjust my work schedule to fit around my studies, which was really essential around exam time or when doing my student placements.”

After completing her JCU studies last year, Emma now works in the Emergency Department (ED) at Townsville University Hospital which she says was inspired by her third-year student placement experiences, both rurally and at the Townsville University Hospital.

“I did my final student placement in the ED at Townsville, and I just loved the fast-paced, dynamic role of the nurses there. You get exposed to all kinds of conditions and their treatments, as opposed to just one specialty. It's also very much a team-based approach to nursing, where everybody's got your back.

“Most importantly, working in the ED grants me the clinical exposure to learn and see new things everyday which helps to further develop my skills and grow as a clinician.”

Emma Parker at her J.C.U. graduation.
Emma Parker standing outside the emergency department.
Left: Emma Parker at her JCU Graduation. Right: Emma at the Townsville University Hospital Emergency Department. (Images supplied.)

Rural experiences spark enthusiasm for critical nursing

Coming from Brisbane, Emma says she chose to study nursing at JCU’s Townsville campus so that she could have an opportunity to undertake a wide variety of placement experiences, including in rural and remote locations.

“I had the opportunity to spend six weeks in Longreach for one of my final year placements, which was one of the best experiences of my whole degree. It sparked this amazing light inside me for critical nursing as you get more exposure to various kinds of medicine in rural settings,” Emma says.

“In the rural, smaller hospitals there may be only one nurse and one doctor working in emergency and so you get more of an opportunity to be hands-on, and you get to develop a broad knowledge base quite quickly. It was really inspiring to see the huge skill range of the nurses and doctors working in these more remote locations.

“I also did a few weeks on my placement in Longreach in the primary health clinic. I spent time with the diabetes educator, the cardiac nurse and the oncology nurse on their visits to patients’ homes, which included visits to surrounding communities in the Central West such as Winton and Barcaldine.

“They also do a lot of telehealth from the primary health clinic, especially in relation to managing chronic health conditions, which again was really interesting because it's such a different way of nursing as opposed to the larger city centres.”

Although Emma was successful in securing a position in critical care at the Townsville University Hospital straight after graduating, she says her long term plan is to go rural again.

“I do see myself going rural in the foreseeable future, so I can broaden my experience and live the rural lifestyle. I’m really attracted to having a nursing role that is vast, where you can cover both the emergency and general wards and have that ongoing continuity of care with your patient.

“Right now, I am consolidating my critical care skills in the ED at Townsville University Hospital so that when I go back to a rural setting, I can be more competent and confident in myself as a newly graduated nurse and more able to jump straight in.”

“Most importantly, working in the emergency department grants me the clinical exposure to learn and see new things everyday which helps to further develop my skills and grow as a clinician.”

JCU Nursing Graduate Emma Parker

JCU Nursing students training on-campus.

Taking it one step at a time

Emma’s journey to becoming a critical care nurse has led her to many places and created opportunities for many unique experiences, a testament to the power of following your own path to wherever it may take you.

“Moving from Brisbane to Townsville to start my studies at JCU at the age of 19 and not knowing anyone was a really big challenge,” Emma says. “I remember walking into the lecture theatre on my first day and feeling really daunted.  But I just kept reminding myself that I managed to get myself here and to just keep reiterating that ‘I've got this’.”

“Fortunately, the nursing students at JCU are a friendly lot and I've made many friends during my studies who I know will be my friends for life. I have to admit that being a student and working to support myself through uni was really tough at times, but if you put in the effort and stay focused, you’ll get through it.”

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