Local mother-of-two Carly Byrne is among 119 students about to make their dreams become reality through TAFE Queensland.

In January 2017, the Sunshine Coast Health Institute (SCHI) opened its doors for the very first time, offering locals access to a unique and innovative study experience unlike anything previously offered in the region. Now nearly 18 months on, 119 students from TAFE Queensland’s nursing, aged care and health administration courses are excitedly preparing for their graduation and the beginning of a rewarding career of caring for others.

Thirty-nine-year-old single mum-of-two Carly Byrne is among 36 Diploma of Nursing students participating in the first nursing class to graduate from their studies at SCHI this June, and could not be more excited to move on to the next stage of her career. Having juggled her studies with a part-time job, all while raising her two daughters, this is the moment she’s been waiting for.

“As a mature woman and a single mum, I have to work to pay bills and look after my kids, so balancing my studies with that has been difficult. But I have loved studying, I enjoy the challenge, and there are stacks of women out there doing it, so why can’t I?” Carly said.

“I’m so excited and so proud of myself for getting to this point. I can’t wait for this new chapter of my life – who knows where it will take me?” she said.

Carly completed a Certificate IV in Justice Studies at TAFE Queensland’s Loganlea campus in 2012, preparing to pursue a career in the police force where she could give back to society. However, upon completing the qualification she realised she wanted to help people when they were most vulnerable and decided to change careers.

After moving to the Sunshine Coast, Carly secured a job cooking in a local aged care facility and found herself inspired by the selflessness of the carers.

“I saw the nurses and the amazing work they do and I just thought, ‘wow’,” Carly said.

“Then they started building the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, so it seemed like the perfect time to do it,” she said.

Carly’s decision was indeed well timed – with the new hospital service and the Sunshine Coast’s growing population, demand for skilled workers in the health and social assistance sector is forecast to grow by 9.6 per cent over the five years between 2017 and 2022 (according to Labour Market Information Portal). In addition to that, with the opening of SCHI last year, Carly has had access to state-of-the-art educational facilities during her studies.

Carly at SCHICarly in one of the SCHI wards

“I chose to train at TAFE Queensland because my previous experience with them had been fantastic; they were so supportive and it was financially accessible too,” Carly said.

“This experience has really blown me away. The facilities at SCHI are second-to-none, so having access to these resources as a TAFE Queensland student is amazing,” she said.

SCHI is one of the most unique joint ventures of its kind on the Sunshine Coast and is a reflection of the partnership between Queensland Health, TAFE Queensland, University of the Sunshine Coast, and Griffith University. Boasting a 370-seat auditorium, 150-seat lecture theatre, three clinical laboratories, e-learning labs and simulation suites containing state-of-the-art technology that replicate a variety of hospital rooms, SCHI sees diploma and bachelor students cohabitate in a purpose-built training facility located in the Sunshine Coast Health Precinct.

“Studying on the same site as the Sunshine Coast University Hospital gave me a chance to make connections with the staff and you really felt a step closer to actually working there,” Carly said.

“I’ve been undertaking my placement at the hospital and it’s been amazing to be able to see how everything happens there and the sort of facilities they work with. While having the chance to train hands-on with patients has been my favourite part so far, it’s also been great getting to witness a surgical procedure and the incredible technology they use,” she said.

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