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From hairdresser to midwife: Talea’s story

This article appears in: Alumni stories, Balance work, life and study, Nursing and Midwifery, Online study
Talea landscape with son

Talea is the mum and midwife you want to know about. She completed a Bachelor of Midwifery online from her home in Perth, while raising three young children and working part time. All with the goal of switching careers from being a hairdresser to a midwife.

When she finished high school, Talea trained as a hairdresser, but realised soon after the birth of her first baby that she wanted to become a midwife.

Having not finished year 12, Talea sat the Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT) and began her midwifery degree in her late twenties. Now she's working as a full-time midwife at a busy hospital in Perth and hopes to continue her education with postgraduate study

Finding flexibility to fit in with family

"Charles Darwin University's midwifery degree offered amazing flexibility," says Talea. 

All the other courses I looked at in my home state required me to commit to full-time study on campus – which as a mother to a toddler and soon-to-be newborn just wasn’t an option for me.

"I knew that if I was going to succeed in the degree, then I needed be able to study online, and at my own pace. Throughout my four years studying with CDU, I gave birth to two babies. 

My lecturers at CDU were amazingly supportive. They helped me rearrange my placements to fit in with family commitments.

"When I was on campus for a simulation block, they didn’t bat an eyelid when I needed to breastfeed my baby every three hours," says Talea.

The juggling act

Kids in study space

Talea had her second child four weeks in to her first semester of her degree. If there's anyone who knows about the 'juggle', it's her. 

I started slowly, just doing four units over the entire year. By the time second year came around, I was ready to take a full time course load.

"I couldn’t have done this course without my family, especially my husband and my mum. I remember towards the end of my degree, I was 36 weeks pregnant with our third child and was on call for a birth. Midwifery students are required to follow 10 women throughout their pregnancies and labours," says Talea.

"My patient went into labour at 11pm, so I jumped in the car to drive two hours to the hospital and arrived just in time for the first. Meanwhile my husband leaves for work at 5am, so I called my mum in the middle of the night to help with my own kids. She got to our house before my husband left for work, so she could be there when the kids woke up. When I got home at 8am, and the kids were dressed, fed and ready for the day.

"On top of that, my husband would save up his rostered days off (RDOs) and annual leave each year, and take chunks of time off when I had to do placements," says Talea. 

Finding her rhythm with online study

"I was initially really worried about studying online," says Talea. "I just thought, 'How am I going to manage this?' Fortunately, I’m a very organised person by nature, which really helped.

I had a strict study plan and would plan out my entire semester.

"I also got my kids into a really good routine; they were in bed, asleep by 6pm every night. On Monday to Thursday, I’d study as soon as they were in bed through to about 11pm. For difficult subjects, I’d set my alarm and study from 5am to 7am. I made sure everything was done by Thursday night, so I focus on spending Friday to Sunday with the family."

Preparing for the job

Talea smiling in her work scrubs on the left and Talea holding a newborn baby on the right

The study is one thing; working as a midwife is another. Thanks to a range of placements and her expert lecturers at CDU, Talea hit the ground running when she landed her first job as a midwife. 

When I finished my degree, I felt really independent and confident I could go out and work as a midwife.

"The first couple of weeks work as a qualified midwife were certainly quite overwhelming - I was on my own now!" she admits.

"But I surprised myself with how capable I am. After a couple of weeks, I really felt like, 'I can do this... I'm good at this'. I also work with an amazing team, and I’m really well supported, which of course helps."

"There's no perfect time"

Her advice to others considering starting or returning to study later in life? 

If it's something you want to do, then bite the bullet. There’s no right or perfect time.

"The first time I delivered a baby by myself, the second my hands touched that baby, it was almost like an electric shock. It was the most incredible feeling.

"A midwifery degree is hard, but it's worth it. And Charles Darwin University are very supportive of all the other commitments you’ve got in your life. I’d honestly encourage others not to wait… jump right in with both feet," says the inspiring mum. 

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