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Sky’s the limit for former flight attendant after COVID career change


Louise loved flying high as a QANTAS flight attendant but the call to be part of the solution to the current COVID-19 pandemic was too strong for her to ignore. 

While her international flying colleagues had been grounded when countries closed their borders, along with many other people in the aviation industry, Louise was in the lucky five per cent of crew who continued flying domestically as an essential worker. 

But Louise had an inner voice that kept growing louder. It told her to pursue another dream – so she turned her back on job security and her 30-plus year career in aviation and signed up to study nursing with Mater Education.

“I experienced a very strong call to arms in March 2020 to act responsibly, be part of something larger than myself and do something truly meaningful to help my country out of this pandemic,” Louise said.

“I’d first thought about becoming a nurse when I was 16 years old, after listening to an inspiring talk by a nun at Mater Hospital Rockhampton. The call grew again after I visited Papua New Guinea in 2018, to mentor school students about different careers in aviation, and was overwhelmed by the lack of medical services and infrastructure. 

“I remember standing on a tin roof helping install a satellite dish in the community of Milne Bay Province and looking down and seeing heavily pregnant women waiting for hours for medical treatment. When I got down, I told the Catholic Priest who had invited me to the area that I was going to return one day as a travel nurse and work around the islands.” 

Louise said when she made the decision to pursue a nursing career, she knew it would have to be through Mater Education.

“I was well aware of the legendary nursing training at Mater throughout the decades, and for me there was no other choice,” she said.

“I also had a very affectionate bond with the Potter children’s ward at the old Mater Children’s Hospital in the late 1980s, when I used to dress up in the Flying Kangaroo outfit for my airline and bring pilots and flight attendants to visit the children.

“The Sisters of Mercy loved those visits, especially around Christmas, because we would dress the children and nurses as airline crew and take them on imaginary flights.

“That ward is now one of our Mater Education classrooms. The connection is very special to me and one of the reasons I chose Mater Education. I knew how Mater cared for patients.”

Louise enrolled in Mater Education’s Diploma of Nursing in October 2020 and will graduate in May this year.

She said studying with Mater Education had exceeded her expectations.

“Returning to study at the age of 58 was a little daunting. The journey has been challenging, exhilarating, sometimes exhausting and truly wonderful,” she said.

“The most touching experience during my Diploma of Nursing studies was helping a patient I met while on one of my placements to achieve their dying wish, to revisit the Mater nursing quarters where she lived during nursing training in the 1960s. 

“The unique culture of compassion and care that was the legacy of the founding Sisters of Mercy at Mater was evident as the Mater Educators, the patient’s family, the Mater ward nurses, our Heritage Centre and many caring others came together to make the patient’s wish happen. I was humbled as a nursing student to witness something truly special.”

The mother of one, who had flown both internationally and domestically and is a trained psychotherapist who is heavily involved in refugee mental health trauma work, said she was excited to soon graduate from the Diploma of Nursing and begin her new career.

“I’m very excited about these new beginnings and where my Mater nursing training will take me in the future. I hope it will be working globally as a travel nurse with a focus on health promotion and mental health.”

Louise plans to study her Bachelor of Nursing and work with Mater Health for a few years before sitting the American enrolled nursing exam so she can also work in the US, New Zealand, Ireland, England and the Pacific Rim.

“I will be 59 years old when I graduate from the diploma, and in five years that makes me 64 – showing there need not be barriers to your inner passion and unfinished business.

“My advice to anyone who keeps having that recurring thought about studying nursing is - do it! Push your limits. Those who embrace change do better long term. The team at Mater Education are amazing and will support your learning process to help make your dream happen. Take the leap and fly.”