A COVID-19 interruption to face-to-face learning hasn’t dented the resolve of a La Trobe University Aspire student to complete her studies and continue to help people.
In fact for 18-year-old Hayley MacKinnon, who has just finished the first semester of a three-year Bachelor of Nursing degree, the pandemic has only reinforced the importance of the qualification.
The Numurkah Secondary College graduate spent only one month at the university’s Shepparton campus before classes were forced online.
“At the start I didn’t really enjoy online learning, it was hard to get motivated and I find it easier to learn in a classroom setting,” Hayley said.
“But once I talked myself around and got my head around the process it worked well.”
With her lecturers accessible via email or Zoom, Hayley said the one-on-one assistance was helpful, and the ultimate goal of completing all set work was the same, whether she was in the classroom or studying at home.
“I was lucky that even though I had only been going to classes for a month I had developed some really good relationships with other students,” Hayley said.
“That’s helped too because some of us message each other most days to see how we’re going.”
The coronavirus restrictions, and the challenges people have faced, has strengthened Hayley’s resolve to work in the field of mental health nursing.
“Mental health has always been an interest of mine, I’ve always been quite passionate about it,” Hayley said.
“I find it so fascinating how some people react to mental illness, there is so much stigma.
“When I was younger, I didn’t know much about it, but it’s everywhere around us.”
Post-graduate studies in a Masters of Mental Health Nursing is one pathway Hayley will explore “down the track”.
Entry to La Trobe University through the Aspire program rewards those who contribute to their community, and for Hayley it meant an early offer so she knew in advance what her 2020 study plans would look like.
Hayley’s application detailed her involvement providing health care during volunteering and placement at Cobram District Health.
During Years 11 and 12 she studied a Certificate III in Allied Health and Health Assistance through GOTAFE.
“Towards the end of Year 10 I went to a career advice session for future Year 11 students, and one of the presenters asked if we had ever considered TAFE studies,” Hayley said.
“I was always interested in the health field, but it wasn’t until I did placement and loved it that I realised nursing was for me.”
Placement in the acute ward and aged care facility at Cobram hospital, as well as stints in the dental unit and working with physiotherapists, gave Hayley first-hand experience of life as a nurse.
“I learnt so much from placement; the theory part was great, but it was the practical tips and tricks I learnt from the nurses that really made me see what nursing is all about,” Hayley said.
“And the patients were awesome.”
Hayley said she had contemplated moving away to study, but by enrolling at the Shepparton campus, she was able to live at home and maintain her part-time jobs as a pharmacy assistant at Numurkah’s Amcal pharmacy and cashier at Numurkah FoodWorks.
“It just made sense to live at home, and study locally,” she said.