Talking about her Graduation Day in November, 2019, Caitlin Bridges-Hunt says,
‘I was so excited. My dad was there, and I know he got teary eyed, and my dad never cries. That was a big moment for me.’
Caitlin had a double reason for feeling excited. On stage, in front of the other students and lecturers, she received her Diploma of Nursing and the Excellence Award – Vocational.
This Award recognises the highest academic achievement by a student eligible to graduate at the Sydney ceremony in any Higher Education course offered by the Faculty. This includes graduating students from NSW and the ACT as well as Internationals students. For Caitlin it’s an acknowledgement of her dedication to her studies. She did her best in every aspect of her course work, and as she says, ‘Even if I wasn’t perfect, the fact that I was trying showed the educators that I was committed to the course.’
In the days after the ceremony, Caitlin thought about how far she’d come.
I wasn’t great at my high school education, but with the teachers and the facilities at uni, I think I really flourished. I’m more hard working than I was before. I’m dedicated to learning in a way that I wasn’t in high school because I’m passionate about Nursing.
Caitlin first trained as an AIN (Assistant in Nursing), and was a carer in an age-care facility. Wanting to learn more, develop her technical skills and work in hospitals, she enrolled with THINK Education at Torrens University’s Pyrmont campus, Sydney. Over 18 months she studied full time to graduate as an Enrolled Nurse (EN).
With this course I found a real love for Nursing, and I think it was mainly because of the educators and how the course is designed.
The Diploma course is divided into three stages. Stage 1 focuses on aged care; in the second stage students develop skills relevant to an Enrolled Nurse. And Stage 3 is mostly about medication and medical training. According to Caitlin, ‘The stages got increasingly hard but with that they also grew increasingly exciting.’
Pyrmont, a short walk from Darling Harbour and the city, was a surprise for Caitlin as she didn’t expect to be studying at such a central location, and on such a well-equipped campus.
We had mannequins that breathed, coughed, and simulated a real person. And, we had all the equipment you’ll find in a hospital setting. It was great – so clean and fresh. It really makes you motivated to study and learn.
Caitlin also appreciated her connection with the teaching staff. ‘Getting a close bond with the educators really helped, because I found that if I had an issue with any assignment,’ she says. ‘I could get advice from them.’
The university arranges placements so students can put into practice what they learn in the classroom. Caitlin’s first placement was in a mental health facility.
It wasn’t physically hard, but mentally tough because you know that these patients are going through a difficult time and that takes a little toll on you. But making them smile during a conversation, or just interacting with them, thinking you’ve made their day a bit better helps, and I really liked it.
The students would get together to discuss what they were learning from their placements. ‘You need to talk to somebody about it,’ Caitlin says, ‘because you’re facing realities that you aren’t used to. You might see mental health on TV, but there’s a wall between you and them. In daily life as a nurse that wall breaks down and it’s so much more real.’
Caitlin’s advice for new students
Make sure that this is something you really want to do. A lot of people come into Nursing just because a family member’s done it. I think there’s a big difference between that and choosing Nursing because you’re passionate about it, and it shows in your work.
Make sure that you’re there for every lesson, really listen so that you can learn, and talk to your educators.
THINK Education is a great place to find your passion and find out if Nursing is something really made for you, because you get so many different experiences in your course.
Caitlin decided to study with THINK Education when she went to an information day and, ‘They made the process easy and they were all lovely. It took away so much of the stress of choosing a course.’
She’s already applied to study for her Bachelor of Nursing – Registered Nurse. In the meantime, Caitlin’s working as an AIN until she gets registered. The registration process with AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) takes about six weeks. Then Caitlin will be able to work anywhere in Australia as an Enrolled Nurse.
Thinking about the one thing that stood out for her during the course, Caitlin says, ‘It was the class environment. I never felt daunted coming to class. It was such like a fun atmosphere, and it just made you excited.’