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Nursing and midwifery student Laura McKay

23 April 2020

Laura explains how she juggles her nursing and midwifery studies with being a mum

University study is rewarding but also presents its challenges, particularly while learning has transitioned online. Each student at Deakin, including yourself, has a unique background, perspective and set of aspirations, and so it is crucial that you try different approaches to successfully balance your studies and other commitments.

For an insight into how our Faculty of Health students are achieving their goals at Deakin, we spoke to student Laura McKay about how she manages to balance her responsibilities as a mum with her study, and how she takes time out to stay happy and well.

What are you studying?

I’m in my fourth and final year of a Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Midwifery at the Warrnambool Campus.

What do you enjoy most about university?

I like that I am studying something that I am passionate about. My course has allowed me to experience many different areas within a hospital, as well as hospitals in different settings (rural/metro). I have been able to make a difference in people’s lives and I think that is a real honour and powerful thing to be a part of.

What is the most difficult part of university?

Balance. Classes aren’t 9–3.30pm throughout all the trimesters, education isn’t the only major part of my life. I have work, a gorgeous six-year-old boy, a home and also function better when I have had some ‘me’ time as well. It is hard to balance this with the demands of study, including assignments, class work and additional independent learning.

Have you used any services or resources on campus and how did they help?

I really enjoyed the Faculty of Health Peer Mentor program. I was nervous about meeting people as I wasn’t sure if I would fit in with school leavers, but I also wasn’t sure I would fit in with mature-aged students either. The truth is we all get through together. The program allowed me to find out that we often all have the same worries and could help each other through, as well as getting to know my classmates a bit more.

I used the campus nurse service to assist me with getting my vaccinations all in order for my clinical placements. I also like the assignment planner that provides individual dates for assignments, as when I use this it helps me to not procrastinate so much! I went to the Library sessions at the start of my course to help me with accessing their resources. I have seen Student Central to explore financial assistance options, including scholarships. I attended PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) which I found to be a super effective way to help me revise. I am also now involved in a number of programs as a mentor. I really enjoy giving back and I often learn things from the students that are in my groups.

How do you fit your study around the rest of your life? Do you have a routine?

Honestly, my routines change each year. I think my routine is to be flexible. I get overwhelmed really easily when considering what I need to do in my day or making a ‘to-do’ list, which results in not getting as much done. My way around this is to sometimes make a ‘done’ list, so I write things down after I have completed them. It is very satisfying to watch this list grow. I include self care, study, work and household activities on this list as all of them are so important! I can then look at the list and see if I should add something from a particular area.

What are your top tips for preparing for exams?

Involve friends! Whether it is a group Messenger conversation or other catch-ups, it helps to discuss exam preparation and content. I have also in the past, before social distancing, had a few people over to my house for dinner and then we studied. It was great to review the different knowledge areas that we all had, and teaching concepts to others is a fantastic way to solidify your own knowledge.

I also recommend working within the parameters of how you learn best. I have created a chart on the wall in my dining room that I use to go through key concepts before exams. I use plain A4 paper and coloured markers to draw, create mind maps or write notes in pretty colours. I can then glance at them when walking by, eating, cooking or just admiring my handiwork!

How do you stay mentally, socially and physically well to juggle all the things in your schedule?

Socially, I make sure that I am keeping in contact with people and that I give myself permission to have time off to catch up with them. If I don’t give myself that permission it means that I am not enjoying the time and I become worried I should be studying instead. I also catch up with my friends who are studying other subjects as well and we study together. This helps socially and mentally.

I make sure that I am aware of where my mental health is at and if I might need to incorporate a bit more of a certain thing in my day to help it, for example some getting some fresh air, taking a craft opportunity or doing some exercise.

Physical health is a challenge for me, having never been into sports. Before isolation I began playing badminton and cricket. These have currently ceased and I am finding myself really missing them! I am still doing backyard cricket and walking with my partner and son. I would also like to utilise YouTube channels, like the Fitness Marshall, and the treadmill better. I am also finding that cooking at home more passionately increases my motivation to move physically as well, so keeping that up is important to me.

If you could change one thing about your university experience what would it be?

I’m not sure! I have learned something from each part of my experience. It would be great if my time management would be A+ all the time, but I have also learned something from the times that it hasn’t been that great. My mistakes, and sometimes failure, have had lessons to learn from and, hopefully, they will make me a better nurse and midwife too.

Your biggest achievement in your study thus far?

Getting to this point has been a massive achievement. When I started the course my mum committed to helping me manage placements etc with my son. We were then lucky enough to have my partner come into the picture more recently too. It has been a big effort with many challenges along the way and when I walk across that stage to graduate it will be because of the support and love from my family. It is indescribable to have my six-year-old son tell me ‘I am so proud and happy you are a nurse Mummy because it is intelligent and you help people’.

Anything else you’d like to share?

It isn’t easy sometimes, there are challenges. But there is support there. With Deakin, with your classmates, family, community. For myself, it has taken a village and this course has helped me to learn more about their support of me, more about myself as a person and helped me work towards my dream job.

Need some guidance as you study online?

The Faculty of Health has designed workshops to help you thrive as you study online. Check out the Student Engagement and Transition Support Program for the upcoming events over the next few weeks.

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