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A quick step into nursing with an online degree: Meet Michelle

This article appears in: Alumni stories, Balance work, life and study, Changing careers, Nursing and Midwifery, Online study
CDU nursing student at her locker in a hospital

As a busy mum and trained dancer, Michelle never dreamed that a different career would be possible. But Charles Darwin University changed all that. Waltzing through a flexible online nursing degree, Michelle is now dancing to a different tune working as a nurse and putting her newfound skills and passion into practice.

Michelle left school at 16 to pursue a career in classic ballet dancing professionally in Germany and America. When she returned home she began to teach dancing and started her family. 

While she still had a love for dancing, she felt ready to start a new chapter. But she was hesitant. Without her Year 12 High School Certificate (HSC), she felt her options were limited.  She now knows different. 

If I had to give my younger self some advice, I’d say: ‘There’s nothing to lose in trying and you might regret it if you don’t'.

"You can’t anticipate everything, but there’s always a work around. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Put one foot in front of the other and take it as it comes," says Michelle. 

Leaning into an online degree

CDU student Michelle studying online

“My brain was ready for something else,” says Michelle.

My husband suggested I go back to uni, to which I said: ‘Don’t be silly! I don’t have my HSC, we’ve got kids, and we need the income from my work. I can’t go to uni.'

"And he responded: ‘I’m sure you could do something! Why don’t you have a look?’ and so I did.” 

Overcoming her initial hesitation, Michelle started researching her options and came across CDU's online nursing degree

“My mum’s a nurse and nursing has always interested me.

I didn’t think there’d be an option for me to study it until I looked at Charles Darwin University.

“Its online nursing degree meant I could juggle part-time work and children. At the time I applied, CDU was the only university where I didn’t need any previous nursing experience or qualifications," says Michelle.

CDU has been doing online study for so long they’re really good at it. It’s not clunky or disorganised or segregated.

"From what I’ve heard, other universities keep online and on campus students quite separate. But at CDU, everyone – online and on campus – is just a student.

"You really feel like you’re at uni with a whole bunch of other people," she says.

Fast-tracking her studies

Heading into her nursing degree, Michelle still had reservations about how she’d tackle the study load. “There was a huge barrier mentally. Could I do it? Would I do it? Would I be able to do it well enough? Could we afford it?
“My approach was ‘one step at a time’, and if I didn’t love it or couldn’t make it work, I’d stop. 

But CDU was actually fantastic. They were really supportive and that made the ‘juggle’ possible.

"Every lecturer I spoke to helped me to manage the load and succeed," she says. 

In fact, Michelle ended up fast-tracking her degree and finishing sooner than she’d planned. 

“Once I got into study mode, it was easier just to keep that continuum going and that's when I decided to pick up extra summer units. I was really enjoying the study and the flexible online lectures made it easy to do.”

Michelle wasn’t alone. “Something CDU does really well with online study is providing opportunity to actually meet other online students from all over the country. Everyone was at a slightly different stage of their nursing degree, but we’d all spur each on other on and help each other out."

Practical experience as an online student

CDU student Michelle with her nursing colleagues

As part of her online nursing degree, Michelle had to complete both one-week clinical simulations and practical placements. 

“Unlike the other universities I looked at, where you spend time in a lab each week, CDU offers one-week practical intensives in a clinical simulation suite (which is a bit like a mock hospital environment) at one of their campuses or centres around Australia. 

It meant I could get the clinical simulation component done in a week, rather than spaced out across several weeks.

“I chose to travel to Alice Springs, but I believe there are now simulation suites across Australia for nursing students at CDU, so it’s definitely worth exploring the options.”

As for her placements, most of these were close to home, but she jumped at the opportunity to experience nursing in remote Australia. 

With her husband holding down the fort at home, Michelle spent a two-week placement in a community north west of Alice Springs.

It was one of the best experiences of my life.

"I learned so much from the highly experienced, capable and extremely generous nurses. It was such a highlight of studying with CDU," she says. 

A career – and qualification – to be proud of

CDU student Michelle in the living room with her family

Today, Michelle is working as a nurse in her local hospital, which is exactly what she’d hoped for. 

“I’ve got a qualification and career I’m proud of, and I’ve shown my children that anything’s possible,” she says.

I was so hesitant and worried that I wouldn’t be able to do the study and complete a nursing degree, but I’ve proven myself wrong.

"CDU provided me with the skills and experience to go to work every day to a job I love. I couldn’t recommend it enough.”

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