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From supermarkets to special care: TAFE NSW helps career-changer follow nursing dream

TAFE NSW Ballina

From supermarkets to special care: TAFE NSW helps career-changer follow nursing dream

A TAFE NSW Ballina graduate proves it’s never too late to follow your passion after switching careers from a retail worker to a nursing graduate at 45 years of age. Spring Grove local, Crelleain Robertson, was able to balance her career change with her family life by enrolling in TAFE NSW’s fee-free Diploma of Nursing in 2023.

Crelleain’s story reflects a broader trend with job mobility hitting 9.5% in 2023 for the second year in a row, the highest rate in a decade according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Even industries typically considered stable faced significant shifts after a period of workplace shutdown due to Covid, leading more people to reconsider their future career path.

When considering the change after a retail career spanning 30 years, Crelleain credits the fee-free Diploma course with making her decision to return to study easier.

“I’ve wanted to pursue nursing for some time, and was even accepted into a Bachelor of Nursing, but the timing didn’t work for my family. I still had kids in primary school, and the thought of balancing full-time university study with work was too much at that time.

“I was considering different pathways and found I could pursue enrolled nursing through TAFE NSW. Cost was a consideration for our family, so when I discovered the course was fee-free it was such a relief. Everything lined up – by this stage, my kids were more independent, and I was able to balance my studies with work,” Crelleain said.

The health care and social assistance sector stands as Australia’s single largest employer, boasting over 2.2 million workers, of which 76 per cent are women. TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Allied Health and Nursing, Colleen Gaudron, said she’s been pleased to see an increase in mature-age women switching careers to study nursing particularly as the demand for nurses increases, with a projected shortfall of 123,000 nurses in Australia by 2030.

“Many women tell me that nursing is something they’ve always wanted to do but then life got in the way,” she said. “Once their children become older and more self-sufficient, it becomes their time to pursue their career goals. TAFE NSW offers the perfect environment as we provide flexible study options and a range of support services.

“Most women will underestimate the valuable skills they bring not only to the classroom but to a new profession. Mature-age students often excel in nursing due to their extensive life experiences.

“They bring an array of essential skills that are transferable to nursing – communication, time management, working in a team, collaborating, and conflict resolution. Often, they’ll have an increased capacity to remain calm under pressure and provide the younger students with support that fosters a positive experience for all,” Ms Gaudron said.

Crelleain said the hands-on experience she’s gained throughout the course so far has further boosted her confidence in the clinical environment, and she has recently been successful in achieving ​​​​​​​ an Assistant in Nursing position at St Joseph’s Nursing Home in Lismore.

“My experience in retail has translated to nursing, allowing me to communicate with colleagues and connect with patients, but since I started at TAFE NSW, I’ve learned so much about the body and the issues that affect people’s health.

“I recently performed a blood transfusion, which was exciting. Through my work placements in aged care and on the cardiovascular ward at Lismore Base Hospital, I’m honing my hands-on skills with the support of experienced nurses,” she said.

All healthcare courses at TAFE NSW are currently fee-free.

Media contact: Emily Graham, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 02 7922 3756.