Two Lithgow residents and Charles Sturt University students have been recognised for International Nurses Day, which was held on Wednesday, May 12.
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Despite recently emerging from one of the worst health crisis' to face the world, the number of people pursuing nursing careers with Charles Sturt University continues to rise.
The world has spent the past year with their eyes firmly fixed on the response of healthcare workers as they responded to the biggest health crisis of our time.
From cheers and clapping in the street to the heartbreaking tales in the media, the plight and efforts of nurses has never been more seen or appreciated.
International Nurses Day on Wednesday, May 12 has Charles Sturt University staff and students reflecting on their decision to become nurses and the role they play in our lives.
This is not nursing student Nikita Nicoll's first time studying at Charles Sturt University.
She started a teaching degree before transferring and graduating with a Bachelor of Communications (Public Relations) in 2015.
Ms Nicoll started her own PR business but after eight months, realised it was not the field she wanted to work in.
Driven by an innate need to help others and an interest in science, Ms Nicoll enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing in 2020.
She lives in Lithgow and studies with Charles Sturt University online while attending some classes on campus in Bathurst.
"I chose Charles Sturt University as it was local and meant I would not have to leave home," she said.
"The lecturers have a solid knowledge base and place a great emphasis on practical learning within the nursing course."
Ms Nicoll is currently working in aged care but has an interest in mental health and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
She said COVID-19 has shifted public perspective of nurses and allowed the broader community to garner a better understanding of the role they play in the healthcare system.
"Due to the demand to look after patients and being the first line of response for care, nurses have been shown in a heroic light since COVID-19," she said.
"Nurses play an essential role in curing diseases and managing health conditions...and I believe it is crucial we celebrate and recognise International Nurses Day."
Ms Nicoll said telling the stories of nurses gives a voice to those who typically remain unnamed.
First-year nursing student Lashay Achurch comes from a family of nurses but originally wanted to be a marine biologist.
After working in customer services, Ms Achurch found a way to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
She completed a pathways course with Charles Sturt University in 2020 and is now enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing.
"I didn't believe I was smart enough to study nursing and it would be too difficult to juggle work and university. I have since learned that it is possible and I shouldn't doubt myself," she said.
"Charles Sturt University is known for producing excellent nurses, for having excellent teachers, a welcoming environment, good industry connections and a balance between theory and practical learning."
Ms Achurch currently lives in Lithgow and studies at Charles Sturt in Bathurst.
She has worked in healthcare for seven years, in nursing homes and as a homecare nurse, but has an interest in palliative care and midwifery.
She said sharing stories of those striving to work in this field is a good way to highlight the important work done by nurses in all disciplines.
"I believe people are starting to understand how much nurses do and how important they are to the health system," she said.
"I believe that nurses are sometimes underappreciated...so sharing stories is a good way to feel relevant and understand you're not alone, especially in such a demanding career."
Charles Sturt University was the first tertiary nursing program outside of metropolitan areas and led Australia to move to offering nursing at a degree level.
Nursing has been available at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga, then the Riverina College of Advanced Education, since it was the Diploma of Applied Science (Nursing) in 1975.
The first cohort graduated in 1980 and the course, in its different entities, has since produced more than 10,000 graduates.
Converted enrolments have increased by almost 25 per cent from 2017 to 2020 across all undergraduate and postgraduate nursing and midwifery degrees.
Course Director for the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health Louise Wells said CSU had a long and proud history of preparing graduates who are highly regarded and sought after.
"We are continuing to grow our already strong links with health services in rural, regional and metropolitan areas," she said.
Ms Wells said it has never been more important to celebrate nurses than in 2021.
"Given our unprecedented response to COVID-19, International Nurses Day provides nurses and the communities in which we live and work a chance to celebrate and acknowledge our contributions and achievements," she said.
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