Mikaela Simmons knew from a young age she wanted to pursue a career in nursing, to help children and families receive the best possible care.
After moving from Armidale in the Northern Tablelands to Lismore to work as an enrolled nurse, Mikaela decided to take on a new challenge and study to become a registered nurse at Southern Cross University, while working at Lismore Base Hospital.
Now in her second and final year of the Enrolled Nurse to Registered Nurse pathway course, Mikaela has been awarded the prestigious Edith Cavell Trust Scholarship, an initiative of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, awarded annually to someone working or studying in the field to support nursing research and education.
The scholarship's namesake, Edith Cavell, was a British army nurse who was executed in Belgium during the First World War, and remains an inspiration to nurses everywhere. The Edith Cavell Trust was established in 1992.
"It was really exciting and a bit surreal to find out I'd received the scholarship. It really helps take a lot of the pressure off for placements and I'm so grateful for the financial assistance," Mikaela said.
"As part of my application I outlined how the assistance would really help me with things like purchasing textbooks and going on placement, and I put forward a figure and they matched it which was more than I expected - this will really help me out a lot.
"Southern Cross University and Lismore Base Hospital also gave me fantastic references which was definitely valuable for the application."
Mikaela's goal is to work in paediatric care in a rural setting. After needing medical care as a child, and being by her dad's side while he was ill, Mikaela knows just how much of a difference nurses make in people's lives.
"You meet some amazing nurses in hospital and when I was young I realised how good a job it was and how I wanted to give back to my community in that way," she said.
"When a patient says 'Thank you - you are really good at what you do and made me feel safe and cared for' - that's why I do this.
"Kids are especially resilient and can bounce back even when they get bad news, and my goal is to move back out to Northern Tablelands to the Inverell area and work in paediatrics."
Southern Cross University Chair of Nursing Professor Jennene Greenhill said she was incredibly proud of Mikaela's achievement.
"This is a fabulous news story that highlights the good work our students are a part of in the community and in advancing their own education to help others," she said.
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