Trauma nurse Kathryn Carver did not have a university degree or a meaningful career in her sights when she dropped out of school due to illness at age 16.
“I loved high school but I wasn’t good academically and then I struggled with depression and spent some time in a hospital,” she says.
“The struggle with depression meant I left school without finishing year 11, but I didn’t want to waste my time while I figured out what I wanted to do, so I got in touch with Port Macquarie TAFE when I was still feeling quite lost.
“At TAFE, the teachers had more time to interact with me and I found it a lot more student-focused than school, which meant the teachers could tailor the classes to my needs.
“It made more sense, what I was learning, and it made a big difference that people were there by choice, which is not always the case at school.
“At school, they focussed on the deficits I had because of my ADD. If concepts were difficult, I would become overwhelmed and avoidance was my default coping strategy. This is typical for girls with ADD compared with boys who often become disruptive.
Most of my school teachers didn't understand how to engage me.”
Kathryn qualified with an Access to Nursing Certificate II and a Certificate III in Assistant in Nursing in 2000 and then she began working in the aged care sector, which led her to complete the Certificate IV in Aged Care.
“I loved the work, I loved interacting with residents and I loved the environment. You can’t do that kind of work if your heart’s not in it.”
Kathryn’s TAFE qualifications meant she was accepted into the University of Newcastle’s nursing program in Port Macquarie without a higher school certificate.
“I didn’t feel confident enough academically, but my colleagues spurred me on, saying I’d be a great registered nurse.”
While she was studying at the university, Kathryn undertook a work placement at Broken Hill, in far western NSW.
“It was a great opportunity to go out there and experience the outback, to actually live there for a while without the commitment of moving there,” she says.
For Kathryn, obtaining the nursing degree was a satisfying achievement after the barriers she faced in her teens.
“I missed out at high school and felt a lot of guilt and shame that I didn’t finish, but then to have been successful at TAFE and have gone to university and now to be a nurse in a trauma hospital, it’s incredible.”
“Being an RN is a lovely challenge, every single day is different and I work with some really complex stuff at the recovery unit I work in and I love engaging my brain.”
Her career choice has allowed her to work and travel across Australia and in 2013, on a whim, she decided to move to Western Australia.
“I thought I’d just go on an adventure. Why not?”
Three years later, she is still in Perth and she’s even created a Facebook page to connect former Port Macquarie locals living in the west coast city.
“I feel like the world’s my oyster.”