What’s it really like to study Nursing?

nurse putting on gloves

Joshua Thomson always wanted to do Nursing, but the time just didn't feel right, so he studied Business and did some youth work and other jobs. Eventually, in 2019, at the age of 30, ‘It was a bit of a now or never kind of moment,’ Josh says, and he started the Diploma of Nursing –Enrolled Nursing.

The one thing that stopped me from doing it for so many years was I've got a mortgage, I've got bills to pay. I can't just stop working to study, but then I found out I don’t have to. When I discovered that you can study Nursing one day a week on campus, I thought, I can do that.

joshua thomas student

With the blended model, Josh spends one day a week on campus developing his practical skills, and studies a lot of the theory in his own time, as it is self-driven. This leaves two days a week for his paid work at Apple, and he also volunteers at a local hospital.

Nursing’s all about people

‘It’s 100% centred on people,’ Josh says.

These days, there’s a shift away from only asking: ‘You're sick – how am I going to make you better?’

‘We have an obligation to provide care that matches not just the patients’ physical needs,’ Josh explains, ‘but connects with them on a level that values their dignity, values who they are, values their values, values their race, gender, sexual orientation. We have to respect who the patient is as a person and their family.’

The stages to reaching the Diploma

Josh is close to completing the six-month Stage 1. On passing Stages 2 and 3 at the end of 2020, he’ll receive his Diploma.

When you start, you’re given an introduction to each subject. That was particularly helpful for those of us who were new to Nursing and those who were new to study. More than just being told what we were going to do, we discussed what the assessments would be like, what were the expectations, and what the practical components were. I'm really glad we spent that time early on, to set us up and prepare for what we all needed to do.

By the second or third day, the other students were already hands-on with the equipment, and were learning first aid and CPR; connecting with the practical side of their studies. Alongside that, they started to learn the theory about the about basic vital signs, and the anatomy behind them.

One of the things that excited me, is that there's a real connection and a desire with, amongst everyone in the course to be committed to what we're trying to achieve. - Josh

As Josh has studied a lot before and is technology gifted, he finds himself being the 'go-to' person for those who haven’t studied in a long time. He’s happy that he can help with their questions, as one student to another.

Also, with class sizes being much smaller than what you might see in other universities, Josh finds there is a strong feeling of working as a team. And after all, nursing is a team-based profession.

‘It really gets you thinking about well how do we work together as a team?’ he says.’ How can we help each other? How can I watch your blind spots? How can you watch mine?’

Studying at the Wakefield campus, in Adelaide, ‘We have some great new facilities. The lab is set up and fully equipped. There's a nurses’ station, and about 12 to 14 beds. It's set up like a hospital. You get a good idea of actually what it feels like to work in the lab and in the wards.’

The students use mannequins in their practical work, and they also train with each other, such as taking each other's blood pressure, temperature and pulse.

We're experiencing the human impact of what those procedures can do. You can learn easily on a mannequin that's not moving, but this way it's all about trying to understand vulnerability; asking yourself, ‘How does it makes me feel?’ We can see the impact of the tasks that we're doing for others and how they affect them; how they affect their dignity. 

 Looking back on his first six months, he sees how the group of 15 students has grown close. ‘We're all at different stages and we've all got different levels of experience,’ Josh says, ‘but somehow, we've all kind of been able to meet in the middle and it's been really nice.

Nursing is all about diversity

The majority of the students in Josh’s class are women, but he’s passionate about showing that men are integral to Nursing.

What I'm trying to work on is: How can I be an example? How can I show other men, and women, that men have a great opportunity to bring what we have to the profession? After all, the reality is, there are just as many male patients that need our care.

And hard work…

There’s no scraping through a Nursing degree.

It's very quickly evident, particularly with the practical side of things, that if you haven't engaged enough, then you get caught out. You can't make your way through a procedure if you don't know what you're doing, and if you haven't done the work beforehand. It really has to be a vocation.

For anyone thinking about studying Nursing…

Here’s Josh’s advice: ‘It's never too late to start. You can begin your studies at any time of your life, and the more life experience you have, the more you've got to offer.’

Nursing's definitely a career where it is what you make of it. If you are prepared to put in the time and effort, you'll reap the benefits. Think about: What can I do that will make me stand out and give me opportunities to grow myself well before I step into a paid job?

  • I believe the biggest thing is to really think about why you want to do it. You know, think about the why behind the what.
  • Think about the purpose, and think about your goal.
  • Think about what you want to achieve, and what you want to do at the end of it.
  • And then just make it happen. If you have a dream, don't let fear stop you, because the more vulnerable you are, the more you’ll connect with the patients.

What the future holds

At the end of 2020, Josh will complete his Diploma, but his studies won’t end there. He plans to take part in a graduate program at one of the local hospitals for a year, complete his Bachelor of Nursing, and then register as an RN ¬– Registered Nurse.

Joshua Thomson is a studying for his Diploma of Nursing. He is a Nursing Student Ambassador at THINK Education, and an Emerging Nurse Leader, Australian College of Nursing.

Learn more about our Diploma of Nursing

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