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How TAFE NSW skills helped Jess save a life

TAFE NSW Cootamundra

How TAFE NSW skills helped Jess save a life

LINE OF FIRE: Volunteer firefigter Jess Jacobs credits the skills she learned at TAFE NSW during a Diploma of Nursing with helping her save the life of a fellow firefighter during the Black Summer bushfires.

9 June, 2020

A firefighter who helped save the life of a colleague during the Black Summer bushfires has credited TAFE NSW for arming her with the skills to respond to the life-and-death crisis.

Jess Jacobs, 30, earned a Diploma of Nursing from TAFE NSW Cootamundra in 2016 and her training was put to the ultimate test during a five-day deployment with the Country Fire Authority to Grafton in late 2019 during the devastating bushfires.

While helping a division controller fight a fire on a remote property, Ms Jacobs witnessed him collapse after a thick plume of smoke engulfed the site.

“I had this immediate gut instinct that something was seriously wrong and ran over to him and felt that he had no pulse,” Ms Jacobs said.

“I ripped open his shirt and started compressions, just as my first aid training at TAFE NSW had taught me.

“I was alone with him for the first 10 minutes until another truck arrived with a defibrillator, and I hit him with it six times.

“His pulse returned after 15 minutes but then we lost him again and I was looking around seeing the despair on everyone’s faces, but I wasn’t giving up. My TAFE NSW training taught me you don’t give up in these situations.”

Her persistence and professionalism paid off. Despite a fire burning within metres of her, Ms Jacobs and her colleagues continued working on the man, who after losing life for the third time, was eventually revived and airlifted to hospital by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

“It was an absolutely incredible experience and I still get worked up talking about it,” Ms Jacobs said. “I don’t think of myself as a hero, I just did what I was trained to do by TAFE NSW.

“That training was incredibly important because it guides you through those initial moments where there’s no heartbeat and no breathing. TAFE NSW also taught me the value of teamwork in these situations and I couldn’t have done it without my team.”

Weeks after the incident, Ms Jacob and the man she rescued, INSERT NAME, were featured on national breakfast television show Sunrise.

She remains close with INSERT NAME, chatting regularly about the moment which was life-changing for both of them.

Ms Jacobs has recently secured a job as an enrolled nurse in an aged care facility near her home.

TAFE NSW Head Teacher of Nursing Cheryl Bradshaw said it was gratifying to see Ms Jacobs use her TAFE NSW skills at such a critical moment.

“Jess is a great example of how the real practical skills and experience that students gain while studying at TAFE NSW will help you get a job and help in a life or death situation,” Ms Bradshaw said.

“There is such great demand for enrolled nurses right now in a variety of settings – aged care, rehab, palliative care, acute settings, specialists wards and more.”

To find out more about studying nursing at TAFE NSW, phone 13 16 01 or visit

Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Media and Communications – Business Partner, 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428.