How Nursing student Matthew returned to Uni and transformed his pathway to work

Three years ago, La Trobe student Matthew Woodcock was hard at work in the tourism industry, tending to excited holidaymakers at a holiday park alongside the Murray River.

Now he’s preparing to work in a field that most people only encounter during the toughest times of their lives: Nursing.

It’s a dramatic change of pace for the 29-year-old, who opted to pursue a new pathway when he found himself “going through the motions” in his previous career.

“I wrote down a list of jobs that I would like, and I cross-referenced them against projected future job prospects with the increase of automation,” he says.

“This led me to look into the health profession.

“After a number of discussions with my family and extended family, I ended up pursuing Nursing because of the many diverse and interesting career pathways that I can take.”

It didn’t take long for Matthew to decide that La Trobe’s Shepparton Campus was the right fit for him. He read about the Bachelor of Nursing on the Uni’s website and met up with the course co-ordinator to learn more.

Still, he admits to feeling a little nervous about heading back to study, especially about how he’d be welcomed into a field that is still populated by more women than men.

But his fears were immediately calmed upon arrival at La Trobe University’s Shepparton campus when he met the supportive teaching staff who would guide him through the next few years.

“The teachers and staff made me feel welcome and part of every team that I have been involved with,” Matthew says.

“I realised in my first year that my gender has little to no bearing on my ability to provide safe and effective patient care.”

The fourth-year student is now well on his way to following in the footsteps of his mother, aunt and cousin, all of whom are nurses as well.

Matthew also says there’s a strong camaraderie between classmates at his regional campuses, with everyone helping one another to navigate their studies.

“I’m a big believer that the most effective way of learning is to collaborate and discuss stuff with other students,” he says.

“Every time I discuss stuff with a student, or teach something to another student, my understanding of that thing is much better – it just sticks.”

Perhaps most remarkably, Matt says going back to University has helped open his eyes to a world of new possibilities.

“Sometimes you can work and work, and just get stuck in a rut,” he says.

“One thing I find when I’m at university is that my mind is open to opportunities, more than when you’re in the routine of work.

“It’s taught me to dream again because you meet a lot of people, there’s a lot of networks out there, and it makes you think, ‘I could do study a Master of this’, or, ‘I could apply for that program’.

In the past year alone, Matthew has undertaken placements in:

  • the Intensive Care Unit at GV Health (five weeks)
  • District Nursing at Kyabram District Health Service (two weeks)
  • Mental Health at Shepparton Private Hospital (three weeks)
  • the Day Procedure Unit at GV Health (two weeks)

He’s already helped save lives.

During his Intensive Care Unit placement, one patient went into cardiac arrest.

He assisted staff to insert a pacing wire that would restart the woman’s heart.

“We were trying to be as positive as we could, but a lot of the team expected she wouldn’t make it,” he remembers.

“But she survived, and now she’s back in the medical ward.”

When he wasn’t studying or on placement, Matthew fit in work as a personal care assistant in aged care, another role he says has helped prepare him for a future in Nursing.

But perhaps Matthew’s most memorable interaction with the healthcare system was his own experience of hospitalisation while studying his first degree, a Bachelor of Business at La Trobe’s Bendigo Campus.

“I had a recurring leg infection and spent a lot of time in hospital,” he says.

“During that time I developed a lot of respect for the doctors and nurses.

“They’re so supportive and they made me feel I’d be okay.

“That’s such a cool thing to be able to do for people in those situations.”

He’ll soon start a graduate year at GV Health in Shepparton. He then hopes to pursue work in critical care (think Emergency Departments or Intensive Care Units) or perioperative nursing inside surgical theatres.

And it seems Matthew is well on his way to achieving those goals. At the end of 2019, he was awarded Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation student award for exhibiting attributes of excellence in nursing practice.