From patient to nurse: how Erin plans to change lives

From patient to nurse: how Erin plans to change lives

Health professionals change lives. Injuries, accidents, illnesses and births – they see it all. They’re a guiding light through some of our darkest experiences. They’re also present for the most triumphant moments in our lives.

La Trobe Bachelor of Nursing student Erin O’Brien knows this better than most. She’s been on both sides of the fence, as a patient and nurse. Erin was born with one leg 10 centimetres shorter than the other—a condition called Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency. Since the age of five, she has undergone 17 surgeries to help correct her knee and hip issues. Each time, her femur needs to be broken. Her most recent surgery was in her first year of university.

Nursing student Erin O’Brien loves the practical component of her health degree at La Trobe University

“It’s been challenging, but therapists never told me I was any different to anyone else,” Erin says. “I know what it is to be in pain. My experiences in hospital growing up have made me a more empathetic future nurse.”

Those same experiences have also given Erin a unique insight into the qualities she admires in great nurses.

“I was inspired by the nurses around me, seeing how they worked and the way they could communicate with patients,” Erin says. “They encouraged me to pursue this degree. I’d love to specialise in paediatric orthopaedic nursing and work in a children’s hospital. I see it as a way to give back and help other kids like me. I want to let them know even with health issues, they can still have a normal life.”

Global recognition

Erin studies nursing subjects ranked in the top 100 worldwide.* She takes advantage of the large Rural Health School at La Trobe and a School of Nursing with research ranked ‘well above world standard.’**

The University’s labs and focus on placements are stand-outs for Erin, as well as the many international clinical opportunities for students in places like Sweden, Denmark, Scotland and Canada.

Locally, she loves the community feel of La Trobe’s Albury-Wodonga Campus, which is conveniently not too far from her Albury home.

“All the lecturers and subject coordinators are amazing,” she says. “They’re industry leaders and take the time to get to know everyone.”

A few weeks out from one of her first-year placements, Erin found out she’d be having another surgery. Her subject coordinator supported Erin to reschedule her placement, so she wouldn’t miss out.

 “Whenever I was sick, they were there to help and were really accommodating. I don’t ever feel like I’m just a number.”

Learning in the field

La Trobe’s regional students undertake clinical placements at one of our many industry partners including Albury Wodonga Health, Bendigo Health, Goulburn Valley Health and Mildura Base Hospital. Melbourne students can access placement opportunities at partner institutions including The Alfred Hospital, Austin Hospital, Melbourne Clinical School and Northern Health.

Two years into her degree, Erin has been on placement four times so far and hopes to undertake three more placements before graduating. She has also been able to access travel grants for health students to assist with the cost of placements further away from home.

Putting theory into practice in a clinical setting has solidified Erin’s knowledge learned in the classroom.

“Having that hands-on experience straight away has been amazing,” she says. “You can only learn so much from a textbook and in class, but placement is where you see that knowledge in action. You really get a feel for what the workplace is like.”

Erin’s favourite placements so far have been in primary healthcare and in an acute clinical setting.

“The staff really took the time to explain things to me and let me assist with different procedures,” says Erin. “My acute placement was really full on, but I loved every second of it. Whether it was picking up patients from recovery or helping out on the ward, there was always something to do.”

Like many other undergraduate health students at La Trobe, Erin feels the hands-on experience she’s gained in a clinical setting has set her in good stead to launch her nursing career. She was even offered a position at one of her placement hospitals while studying.

For Erin, her nursing degree is the perfect launch pad to give back to others.

“It’s so awesome to be out there actually making a difference in people’s lives,” she says.


You too can be the difference. Study one of our world-leading courses and launch your career in health.

*QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019: Nursing.
**Australian Research Council, 2019, Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) Outcomes 2018

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