Lake Macquarie students part of school-based training program giving graduates a head-start in health sector careers

EARNING, LEARNING: Brianna Carrall, second from the right in the top row, with fellow participants in the school-based traineeship program. Picture: Supplied
EARNING, LEARNING: Brianna Carrall, second from the right in the top row, with fellow participants in the school-based traineeship program. Picture: Supplied

TORONTO High School student Brianna Carrall said the school-based traineeship she's completing at John Hunter Hospital had exceeded her expectations, and provided her with a valuable head-start on a nursing career.

"The whole program is amazing," Brianna said.

"I've learned a lot more than I initially thought I would, about nursing fundamentals, about what you need to know to start off in this career."

Bree is one of five year 11 students from Lake Macquarie among a cohort of 36 Hunter teenagers earning while they learn skills to prepare them for a career in the health sector.

The students are part of a school-based traineeship program run by TAFE NSW and Hunter New England Local Health District.

The students are working as nursing support workers.

It is preparing them for potential careers in nursing, where staff shortages are being driven by a growing and ageing population.

TAFE NSW research has forecast nursing support worker will be the number one occupation for employment growth in the NSW health and fitness industry from 2018 and 2021.

It also found that in 2018 more than 2000 additional nurses were required to meet the demands of the health sector. Brianna said the on-the-job training at the hospital was diverse and detailed.

"I'm currently in radiology at the hospital, which covers MRIs, X-rays, CTs and so on," she said.

"I do a lot of observations, looking after people who've come out of biopsies for example, watching them to ensure they're not in any pain. What I want to end up doing is paediatric oncology. I've known a lot of people who have had cancer and being able to be there to help people go through such a tough time would be so rewarding."

POSITION WANTED: TAFE forecasts nursing support worker will be the number one occupation for employment growth in the NSW health and fitness industry. Picture: James Brickwood

POSITION WANTED: TAFE forecasts nursing support worker will be the number one occupation for employment growth in the NSW health and fitness industry. Picture: James Brickwood

The school-based traineeships see students take on a two-year learning program that is in its 12th year of delivery. While continuing their high school studies, the students study a Certificate III in Health Services Assistance (assisting in nursing work in acute care) at either TAFE NSW Newcastle or Kurri Kurri Hospital - depending on their home town - and are employed to work one day per week at a Hunter-based hospital.

Most students go on to complete a Diploma of Nursing or a Bachelor of Nursing while others find work as a health services assistant.

"Studying at TAFE NSW is teaching me a lot of things that help me in the hospital," Brianna said.

"Blood pressures, blood sugars, how to make the beds to hospital standards. I knew none of this when I first got the traineeship. It's extremely practical training so we get real-world experience rather than just theory, which makes me feel more comfortable in the hospital environment."