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Leesa Aberdeen is on the path to a rewarding career in health, after her own hospital experience opened her eyes to the incredible support nurses provide to people at their most vulnerable.

When Leesa awoke from emergency surgery following complications from her caesarean, the kindness and compassion of her nurse not only gave her comfort — it also inspired her to change careers.

“I thought I’d be a good nurse as I’ve always wanted to help people, but I was worried about the blood and the pressure of the job. Then when I had my son, I realised that side wasn’t as scary as I’d thought,” Leesa said.

“I remember waking up from surgery quite distraught and unable to breathe, but the nurse I had was just so comforting and warm. Though I barely remember it, that feeling of comfort he gave me stuck with me, and I want to give that feeling to others,” she said.

“Most people don’t go to the hospital because of a sniffle; they go because they’re sick, they’re scared, and they don’t know what’s going on with them or a loved one. Being able to be that person of comfort really excites me.”

Having recently moved from the Northern Territory to the Sunshine Coast for her husband’s work, Leesa had left her role as a training and communications specialist for an electricity retailer and was looking for a new career path.

According to figures published by the Sunshine Coast Council, more than 20,000 people are already employed in the local industry. The Australian Government Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business projects an employment growth of 19.8 per cent in the local health care and social assistance sector over the next five years. 

Motivated by her experience during her son’s birth and the growing demand for nurses across the country, Leesa followed the recommendations of a friend and enrolled in the Diploma of Nursing (HLT54115).

“When I asked my nursing friend what she thought I should do, she suggested I study to become an enrolled nurse through TAFE Queensland because of how practical the course is,” Leesa said.

“She said that I’d know whether I liked it or not within the first six months because I’ll have done a placement, and that I would gain real-life skills early on that would help me transition easily into working in a hospital environment.”

Leesa is now in the second stage of her studies at the Sunshine Coast Health Institute — a state-of-the-art facility run as a joint venture between the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, TAFE Queensland, the University of the Sunshine Coast, and Griffith University.

“The institute is amazing — you’re surrounded by other health care students and being based across from the hospital, you see the doctors and the patients. It feels like you’re actually amongst it,” Leesa said.

“The equipment we use is practically brand new and I’ve met people who I think will be lifelong friends,” she said.

“Having moved away from all my friends and family, it’s been nice to connect with people on a different aspect — not as someone’s wife or mother, but as myself. It’s helped me re-establish my identity as well as my career.”

Leesa’s studies also provided her with the opportunity to travel, with Leesa recently spending eight days in China learning about traditional medicine as part of TAFE Queensland’s Study Abroad program.

“The whole trip was phenomenal. The food was amazing and getting to go shopping in Shanghai and see iconic landmarks like Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall was just incredible,” Leesa said.

“We also got to go to the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and learn about traditional Chinese medicines like acupuncture, which was fascinating. It changed my perspective on nursing a little bit, and it has taught me that just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

Juggling her family life with study has been a challenge but Leesa said thanks to the support of her teachers and her peers, she's been able to make it work.

“Even getting the courage to return to study was a challenge, but everyone here wants you to succeed. Our classes are smaller in size, so you get to know everyone and we help one another,” she said.

Now she’s almost halfway through her studies and looking forward to a bright future helping others heal.

“In the long term after graduating, I plan to get a position as an enrolled nurse, and then once my son starts school, go to university to become a registered nurse,” Leesa said.

“I’m really interested in post-operative recovery, but nursing can take you in lots of different directions, so I’ll see what happens.”


Find out more about how TAFE Queensland can help you kick start your nursing career.

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