Choosing nursing

I always knew I wanted to do something health orientated which is why I chose to do Podiatry at the start. I studied Biology in Year Twelve, but no Chemistry or Physics, and unfortunately Podiatry consisted of a lot of chemistry and physics. With this definitely was not my strong point, although I was passing, it took me a lot of work to keep up as there was a big general knowledge gap of things I didn’t learn at school.

I actually always had nursing in the back of my mind but chose not to do it because my mum and aunties who are nurses themselves didn’t actually take me serious when I mentioned I was considering it during Year Twelve and my gap year. They would always tell me the bad side of it and I was easily persuaded so that’s why I chose not to do it straight up. What made me change my mind though was the fact that nursing has changed so much over time, and you can work in so many different areas now. I had never had any form of work experience within nursing or any other allied health areas before getting into it, though I probably had exposure to the nursing field by visiting mum at work so I had some idea of what it was like.

Despite coming from NSW and attending school in Sydney, I chose The University of Queensland (UQ) to study nursing at. I was already enrolled at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) when I originally did a year of podiatry, so while I could of stayed at QUT, I had heard that UQ had a really good nursing program- doing more clinical hours than theory compared to any other university.

My application to UQ was actually quite simple, I had to apply through QTAC (which is QLD version for NSW’s UAC). My ATAR meant that I was eligible to qualify for the course and this was finalised in January- there were no interviews or anything. One downfall though that was frustrating was that I received no credits for doing a year of Podiatry, even though I had completed units of study such as anatomy and physiology.  Starting from scratch wasn’t actually as bad as what I thought though because I enjoyed the study a lot more second time round.

Because my studies are based at the Prince Charles Hospital I barely go to the actual UQ campus. The nursing campus is based out at Ipswich which a 40min drive from centre of Brisbane where the main campus is, however the uni is actually really really nice.

The course

The best thing about my course compared to most other universities is the high level of clinical hours. It’s designed so that students learn a large portion whilst being on the job. For years one and two my timetable was exactly the same. We started placements about third week into my course. In my case I was placed on a cardio medical ward, although this did consist of doing a lot of the basic jobs such as taking vital signs, making beds, etc, it did allow me to get a fair idea of what the nursing profession was like.

Each week for years one and two I had two days at my assigned hospital and then one day of lectures. I only have one tutorial each week for half a day which is based in the education centre at my hospital.  In terms of lectures I actually only ever went to three throughout my first two years (naughty), so I can’t give too much insight to these. I’d say tutorials are all group work with consistent oral presentations and synopsis’ that are due each week, so you get a mix of project and assessment types here.

Nothing though was too stressful in the first year, it’s pretty straight forward and easy now that I look back. I think it helped that the skills you were doing throughout the semester you could apply whilst on prac. The course makes you work fairly independently, so a lot depends on how much you want to push yourself. Your clinical lecturers are nurses themselves so they often understand the current issues or nursing practices that are in place and how students deal with being on the wards, so if you have any issues or questions, just let them know.

The university assigns you to a home hospital with the same group of girls throughout your course so by the end of second year you became really good friends and learning becomes very relaxed. I wouldn’t say our whole nursing class is close though… As we have been separated and assigned to the same home hospital throughout the course we are quite ‘groupy’ and its often really competitive or intimidating whenever we have had to join with other groups.

The best part of my course by far though was third year where it is entirely prac. The first semester consisted of doing a 7 week placement at a hospital and specialty area of my choice and then the final semester consisted of doing an eight week placement. There are no exams or assessments during third year just an online portfolio that must be completed at the end.

Because of the large number of clinical hours in third year this meant that I was doing prac five days a week (40hrs) that was unpaid which makes it hard financially, and I did have to save during my second year knowing that I wasn’t going to be earning much during my final placements.

You get to have a lot of involvement with patients, and by the end of second year you are expected to take your own patient load whether it be one or two patients (of course being watched by an RN) however when you’re in your third year you are expected to take a full patient load which is roughly six patients on a ward, or maybe one patient if your in ICU as they are one to one with the patient/nurse ratio. This has really helped me narrow down by career direction a little bit. I think I would like to work in the community and specialise in perhaps Diabetes or women’s health. A note too, Paediatrics can be quite competitive, especially if you are a new grad, along with departments such as emergency. There’s always work in aged care though!

While I don’t think there’s anything I would do differently with my course, I wish I had started straight out with nursing. I have been lucky enough to have placements in ICU, emergency, on the wards and in a high dependency unit so I have drawn some good straws with my course and it’s placements.


A footnote though- nursing is definitely not like how it is on the TV, and I have realised that it is a lot of work for the amount of money nurses get paid. There are some pretty confronting and gross things you deal with, but you really do just get over it. You’ve just got to laugh when the police and a guy arrested for drug possession come in because his ‘stash’ has broken and it’s your job to retrieve them. Just another days work.


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