Written By

Nicolette Ward


College of Healthcare Sciences

Publish Date

18 November 2021

Related Study Areas

Cracking the career puzzle: From beauty therapy to nursing

Having a life-threatening condition and being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is one of the most terrifying moments anyone can experience. But for second year nursing student Megan Lee, it proved to be a pivotal moment in which she decided to pursue a career in nursing.

“I had a really profound experience as a patient in ICU where I was flatlining after an operation and I was very, very scared,” Megan says. “I don’t remember much but I do remember there was a nurse on night shift who just held my hand and made sure I felt safe. It seems so simple but in that situation it actually made a huge difference. That nurse’s care inspired me to consider studying nursing.”

Coming from a background in beauty therapy, Megan wasn’t sure if she had the requirements to be accepted into JCU’s nursing program, but her previous certificates and work experiences meant that she was able to enter straight into the program’s mid-year intake.

“I never saw myself as an academic type of person so going to university wasn’t on my mind when I left school,” Megan says. “But later in life I just thought I’d give it a try and ask about how to apply and discovered that the process was surprisingly simple. They also took into account the Diploma studies I had done as well as my work experience and it turned out I was able to enter nursing without doing any bridging course.”

“Although nursing is of course medically based, I was really attracted to its focus on patient-centred care. My background as a beauty therapist means I am already used to caring for people and making them feel special. I’ve always been interested in helping people, so it felt like a natural progression to eventually go into nursing.”

Nursing student Megan Lee sitting at her desk with a laptop, pens, and study sheet in front of her.
Megan Lee wearing a black top and applying a beauty client's makeup.
Left: Second year nursing student Megan Lee studying at home. Right: Megan working with a client in her previous career as a beauty therapist. Suppled by Megan Lee.

A day in the life as an external student

Starting out as a part-time student, Megan then switched to full-time external studies so that she could juggle her part-time work as well as parenting commitments.

“Although I live in Townsville, I like having the flexibility to study at home and being able to pick and choose my study time. Being an external student also allows me to be available for my son’s school runs and after school activities, which is really important to me.”

According to Megan, the online platform for JCU’s nursing external studies has been both engaging and easy to use, and when combined with on-campus learning workshops and clinics, makes for a productive learning experience.

“The online learning resources are clearly organised and have some great videos. We also get to regularly interact and chat with our tutors, so much so that it almost feels like you’re chatting to a friend. Plus, I get to study in my pyjamas!”

“At the end of each semester we do an intensive on-campus series of practical workshops which is called Residential Week, with external students coming in from all over Australia. There is just so much excitement when you do these because you finally get to see in person the people you have been chatting to online and meet your tutors and lecturers face-to-face. There’s also a lot of social events like dinners that happen while we are all there.

“The hands-on activities in the simulation hospital clinic are a great way to reinforce what you have been learning. It’s quite realistic, the mannequin patients all have names and we treat them like a real person, respecting their privacy by making sure their gowns are in the right place, for example.”

Student placement experiences

Clinical placement experiences are also a crucial component of the JCU Bachelor of Nursing Science degree and occur at the end of the first year.

“My first-year placement was in the stroke and neurological medical ward at Townsville University Hospital. The experience actually helped me to then get a job as an AIN (Assistant In Nursing) position at the Mater Private Hospital Townsville in the second half of my first year and then subsequently a Student Nurse position,” says Megan.

“My next placement at the start of second year was going to be three weeks at the public health service in the rural town of Home Hill in the Burdekin region, which was handy for me as it is only an hour away from Townsville so I could still go home on days-off,” she says. “They do a lot of palliative care, dialysis and rehabilitation, but then I had to cancel that placement due to changing rules around COVID vaccinations for students on placements, and so now I’m about to do a placement instead at a rehabilitation unit at Townsville University Hospital (TUH). Later in the year I also have a placement to do as theatre nurse for the Day Surgery unit at TUH which I’m really excited about.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic causing a few hiccups to placement start dates, JCU’s nursing degree has been able to continue on-track.

“Thankfully we’ve been able to progress with all of our nursing clinical placements at JCU.”

JCU second year nursing student Megan Lee

“The other great thing about clinical placements at JCU is the variety of different experiences you get exposed to as a nursing student,” Megan says. “Our placements include general medical, surgical, rural critical care, and/or a community-based care type of role. This variety of placements helps to ensure that you are well-rounded and have good employment prospects by the time you graduate.”

A close-up of a nurse in a blue uniform holding an older person's hand.
Megan Lee smiling with her hair in a bun and wearing a navy nurses outfit with a red stethoscope.
Right: Megan while on placement in her first year. Supplied by Megan Lee.

Graduation goals

Although still a while away from graduating, Megan has her sights set on becoming either an ICU critical care specialist or theatre nurse, relating back to that pivotal moment when she was in ICU as a patient.

“As I have had a few operations myself, I know very well the patient’s feeling of vulnerability and how important it is for nurses to show empathy and compassion,” says Megan.

“I also really enjoy the pathophysiology side of nursing, that is, the physiological processes associated with disease or injury. Being an ICU or theatre nurse requires you to know a lot about that kind of thing as you need to be watching trends and vitals to basically keep the patient alive.

“I actually had this moment recently when working as a student nurse in the ICU unit at the Mater Hospital, where I was helping a patient and then realised that this was the exact same bed that I had been in as a patient myself. It felt like all the pieces of the puzzle just clicked and I knew that this is what I am supposed to be doing.”

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