The care nurses deliver is life changing. For Flinders University Nursing gradate Claire Nichols, her life experiences led to a career in nursing and a realisation of the importance of care.
Claire Nichols (BNg(PreReg) ’21), came to Flinders in 2015 at the age of 24 with a dream of one day becoming a nurse like her mother, Gaye.
Having dropped out of high school part way through Year 12, Claire sat and passed the Special Tertiary Admissions Test (STAT) and was accepted into the Bachelor of Nursing (Preregistration) at Flinders.
“I was always exposed to nursing through my mum and my upbringing. I am also a mum myself, so I felt I had the potential to become a capable nurse in the future,” says Claire.
Claire’s mum was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, but stoically fought on, even graduating from a psychology degree at Flinders nine months before her death. The care Gaye received from fellow nurses throughout her treatment reinforced to Claire the importance of person-centred care and going the extra mile to treat patients with dignity and respect.
“I would sit with Mum when she was getting her chemo and the way the nurses would interact with her, it made me feel more supported and I thought, I could do that for someone too,” says Claire. “My mum was my best friend. She always used to say that you’re never too busy to make a Milo or cup of tea for someone, it can make all the difference.”
On 2 January 2016 Gaye sadly died. Claire was about to head into her second year of the nursing degree when it happened.
The grief soon became too much as she tried to juggle university, motherhood and work commitments, so she withdrew from her studies.
Over the next three years Claire would withdraw twice more, her marriage would be tested, and she would doubt her ability to finish the nursing degree. But with the help of a good psychologist and support offered through Flinders’ counselling services, she got through the tough times.
“It came to 2019 and I knew I could do it again, so I decided to enrol full time. Flinders has been really good about being adaptable to our experiences,” she says. “I didn’t even finish high school and I’m here. It hasn’t been easy, but I have to egg myself on.”
Throughout her nursing studies Claire had built practical experience through several placements including at community centres, aged care facilities, hospital theatres, high dependency wards and emergency departments.
In 2020 Claire completed her final year of studies and now works as a registered nurse at St Andrew’s Hospital, working between the colorectal, urology and critical care units. The memories of her mother’s time in hospital are reminders of the importance of placing person-centred care at the heart of her nursing practice.
Claire now looks towards her future with positivity and a determination to always strive for the best. The popular saying ‘Ps get degrees’ – meaning a pass level mark is all that matters – doesn’t register in her book.
She says, “Yes, Ps do get degrees, but you can still push harder.”