Crystal Dickson with her sons (clockwise from back left) Jon, 20, Scott, 14, Bryce, 12, and Angus, 11.
Crystal Dickson with her sons (clockwise from back left) Jon, 20, Scott, 14, Bryce, 12, and Angus, 11. Alistair Brightman

Nursing students do it tough

NURSING students doing it tough need more government help if nurses are to help stop the bleeding in our health system.

“And we certainly need nurses.”

Hervey Bay’s Crystal Dickson, a single mum of four boys, has just graduated as a nurse from USQ Fraser Coast and she is pleading for the government to “step in and help struggling students so that they survive to go on to work in our health system”.

“I honestly don’t know how I got through these three years’ study,” the 41-year-old, who left school at 15, said yesterday.

“I did my study between 3am and 7.30am, cried out of sheer exhaustion at times, made sure I never got behind because then it’s so hard to get back on top of it and at home we did without a lot of the time.

“The university was terrifically supportive and my boys and my mum in particular helped me through the hard times.

“But I’m not alone in this mature-age student situation and there are many single mothers who somehow struggle through to become nurses.”

Ms Dickson is one of 56 nurse graduates this year. Her tutor Associate Professor Trudy Yuginovich said Crystal’s drive to get her through “really tough times” was remarkable.

Ms Dickson said she always knew she wanted to be a nurse but “school and me didn’t get along and I had my eldest son then married at 26 and had my other three boys. There wasn’t any time to bring my schooling up to uni entrance standard until 2000 and then in 2006 I moved from Ipswich to Hervey Bay and enrolled in the university course here.

“Some of the hardest times were when I had to go out and do clinical placements.

“I got through with the help of Mum, my stepdad, my oldest son and my ex-husband all stepping in to help but so many students don’t have family or friends who can do that. And they pay rent here and pay rent wherever they have to go to do clinical work.

“I owe $12,000 in HECS fees.

“I believe the government could really help hardship cases with serious financial help.

“Students did drop out during the three years because they couldn’t afford to keep going or they couldn’t raise their children and study too.”

Ms Dickson said she wanted her children to know they could do anything they wanted in life providing they put in “the hard yards”.

The good news is Ms Dickson has found a casual job in mental health here on the Coast.

“I can’t wait to start. I am so excited. This is my dream finally come true.”



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