Leilani Greene and Ketisha Gill met at QUT’s O Week three years ago, are both studying a double degree in nursing and paramedic science, and both hope to serve regional communities after graduating. Now the two friends are also the first recipients of QUT’s new $10,000 Argent Indigenous Nursing Scholarship.
The Faculty of Health scholarship, which is backed by Brisbane education philanthropists Shelley Argent OAM and Don Argent, will help the students pay for travel and living costs associated with their vital final-year practical placements in communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Ketisha, 24, will head to Alice Springs Hospital in June for a six-week nursing placement in the intensive care unit, and will spend six weeks in Cherbourg this semester on a paramedic placement.
Leilani, 23, will gain six weeks of extra nursing experience at a Brisbane hospital this semester and also head out to a western Queensland ambulance station for six weeks experience.
“I have big dreams to work in rural and remote nursing after I graduate,” Ketisha said.
“Nursing is just such a great way to get to chat to people and hear their story and contribute to their lives. I love that nursing is becoming more holistic – it’s not just about medication, it’s ‘what can we do for you, what do you need, how can we help you be the healthiest person you can be’. We’re looking at the big picture of nursing and I think it’s really cool to be part of this changing workplace atmosphere.
“Paramedicine is also wonderful because it’s different every day. People are calling you for help at their most vulnerable point – it’s really humbling to do what we do.”
Ketisha grew up in regional Western Australia as the eldest of four girls, with a mum who was a school teacher and a dad who was a plumber. They were both very supportive of education and encouraged tertiary study.
She initially thought she was destined for a research career.
“I did a neuroscience degree in WA and was planning to research Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, but I decided I needed to be more hands on and get in there and help people in my community,” she said.
“I chose QUT’s double degree in nursing and paramedic science because I need a lot of variety and a lot of stimulation – and there’s not many places where you can get two degrees in four years from a university that’s renowned for what it does.
“It was really the Oodgeroo Unit (QUT’s Indigenous support unit) that sealed the deal for me. The amount of support they offered their students was amazing – it was a community I wanted to be part of. Moving from WA I didn’t know a single soul … but the Oodgeroo Unit welcomed me with open arms and I have been part of that big beautiful mob ever since.”
In addition to studying, Ketisha also works in retail, does tutoring, is a first aid officer for a netball club and even conducts weddings (she’s been a marriage celebrant for five years).
“The scholarship is going to be so much help for me financially because we have to pay our own travel costs for the practical placements, so it will mean I can dedicate more time to my studies and placements,” she said.
“I’m really grateful to the School of Nursing and Professor Patsy Yates (Head of School) for their support.”
Both Ketisha and Leilani also work part-time as student ambassadors with the Oodgeroo Unit.
It’s a role that sees them visit high schools to talk about their university experiences, break down barriers and bust myths about higher education.
Leilani grew up in Cairns and moved to Brisbane in 2017 to start at QUT as a mature age student.
“I went back to Cairns last year as a student ambassador and got to talk at a careers expo and speak to students from my old school, Cairns State High,” she said.
“I hadn’t thought university was an achievable goal because of the difficulty of moving away from my strong family and community connections in Cairns. This is something I know a lot of Indigenous kids struggle with. But the Oodgeroo Unit became my home away from home. The sense of community that they have built here at QUT and the amount of support that the Oodgeroo Unit and School of Nursing offer their students, and continue to offer me, is the reason I'm here four years later and about to graduate university.
“So, at the Cairns expo, I spoke about QUT and the pathways school students could take. I told them about my own experiences … if I can help just one person that’s great.
“We all have different stories and different journeys and to be able to pass that on to someone else who might one day get to experience uni is a real benefit – and hopefully makes it easier for them.”
Leilani is the first in her family to go to university but worked for a couple of years after finishing high school while she figured out what she wanted to do.
“I feel personally it’s good to be a bit more mature and have some life experience,” she said.
“It meant that when I came to university I was excited to study again. And timing is everything – if I hadn’t come to university when I did, I wouldn’t have met the people I did.
“For me, one of the best things has been getting to know the people who work at QUT and benefiting from their experience.
“The student ambassador role is where it all started – I’ve met so many people through the Oodgeroo Unit as well as the School of Nursing.”
Leilani said she chose to come south to Brisbane because of QUT’s real world emphasis and the double degree option.
“I knew that they had paramedic simulation rooms and practical experiences for nursing and I’m a very hands-on learner,” she said.
“I think having that double degree opens up job prospects.
“If I go into nursing after I graduate, I’m hoping to get a graduate position in a rural / regional area where there’s a lot of variety and responsibility.”
Ketisha and Leilani were both presented with their scholarships at a Faculty of Health function at QUT on Thursday night.
** Information on applications for the 2021 scholarships will be posted online later this year.
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