Jen Cotter, Nursing teacher, 20+ years' experience
Registered nurse and nursing practitioner in critical care, trauma and aged care
An ageing population is driving a growing healthcare industry across Australia, which is great news for aspiring nurses according to devoted nurse and teacher at Brisbane North Institute of TAFE (BNIT), Jen Cotter.
"I have been in healthcare for more than 20 years, and I can say that nurses are currently in hot demand, especially due to our ageing population. Nurses play a critical role, and without them society would suffer. Nursing can at times be fast-paced though it's always highly rewarding."
"I always wanted to be a nurse and entered the profession in 1988. I became a Registered Nurse several years later and have worked in many different specialties.
"Starting off in surgical, I moved to critical care and then to trauma and burns which I did for a long time and have more recently expanded into aged care nursing.
"The day I was successful in being appointed as the clinical nurse consultant of a major burns and trauma centre was one of my career highlights. It was something I'd always wanted to do and gave me new experiences to add to my skills mix. I loved every minute of it and only gave the role up to focus on bringing up my family.
Being a nurse has also given Jen a huge amount of career satisfaction and fulfilment.
"Nursing can be very exciting as things change moment to moment. It can be life and death and you need to be able to think on your feet quickly. It's a real thrill to look back and reflect that you've made a difference in someone's life."
As a step in her exciting career, Jen made the move into teaching, as she wanted to give back to the industry she loved, pass on her knowledge and inspire the next generation of nurses.
Keeping industry current
"I had been a clinical educator and staff coach later in my nursing career, which I really enjoyed, it made my progression to teaching at BNIT quite an obvious step.
"In fact it was one of the students I was coaching in the hospital who had been a BNIT student and thought I'd be a great TAFE teacher, so recommended I contact BNIT and here I am!
"Added to my teaching, I currently work as a nurse in an aged care facility and regularly visit acute care sites at hospitals.
"Working in industry makes it so much easier to share experiences with and teach your students. If you've been removed from that environment for too long, your skills aren't up to date; especially in nursing you need industry currency to give the best teaching experience to the students.
"I am actually returning to hospital nursing next year, as many of our students end up in the acute arena and working in that capacity again allows me to better share those experiences with my students.
"Another reason I came into education is to hopefully bring out the very best in our next generation of nurses. I have a broad background and I really wanted to pass my knowledge on to students. Nursing is such an important job that I particularly want to inspire would-be nurses and share my passion to keep the industry strong."
Jen's insights for students
Needless to say, Jen knows a thing or two about what the healthcare industry is looking for in an employee, and makes sure she passes this on to her students.
"There's a big demand for nurses at the moment, and job prospects are really good for the right applicant.
"The industry is looking for graduates who are adaptable, professional and have a mature attitude. They also need great communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to function well under pressure.
"In nursing, you need to go for it and follow your passions. Always remain positive, enjoy what you do and find an area that you are passionate about. Also, study hard to achieve your goals, and keep learning and up-skilling.
"Acute care is a great place to start to develop a good skills base and learn to apply your new skills. However you've really got to try many different things, apply for different roles and find what you enjoy. There is plenty of opportunity to try new things and move about to get a broad experience base.
"For example, I tried aged care nursing even though I thought I'd only spend five minutes there as it didn't seem appealing, but I was so wrong! It was a real eye opener; I am very glad I tried it as I enjoyed it thoroughly. You get to use and develop skills you don't get in the acute arena.
"I also want to point out that nursing is a great career choice for men - those who try it definitely thrive and male nurses are always in great demand. Come on men, give it a go!"
The BNIT difference
Jen's lessons must be rubbing off on students, as BNIT graduates are highly sought after by industry and are snapped up immediately following, and many even prior to, graduating.
"BNIT graduates stand out as they are industry ready, professional and have an excellent knowledge, skills base and grounding in the reality of nursing."
"Feedback from industry indicates our students are really well regarded and sought after.
"We make it real for students at BNIT through industry placement and our highly experienced teachers. Practical experience is a central component of the program, and students are required to do 400 hours of critical placement over the 18 months of the program. These 'pracs' give students real industry insight and experience.
"We also find that many students are offered jobs whilst completing their prac component as this gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their wide range of skills to the employer.
"I also encourage graduates to undertake new graduate programs when they leave BNIT. There are numerous types of these programs offered at healthcare facilities across Brisbane, and students benefit greatly as they are mentored through their first 12 months by an expert practitioner. They are then more prepared and ready to go into the real world."
Don't take our word for it
One such student is Annmaree Miller, 44, a Diploma of Nursing (Enrolled/Division 2 nursing) student who credits Jen with giving her the confidence and skills to make it through her studies and realise her lifelong ambition to become a nurse.
"Jen really is the best; she is very inspirational and an absolutely amazing nurse and teacher. Without her support and guidance I have no doubt that I would not be where I am today.
"She holds an absolute wealth of knowledge and has extensive experience and skills in nursing, which she is always generous in passing on. She always makes the material understandable and is very positive and constructive, treating everyone with the same dignity, respect and courtesy.
"Jen is my mentor and I really look up to and aspire to be like her. If I end up as even half the nurse that she is, I will be fantastic!
"She is always there for us and always willing to help. The knowledge we learn from her really gels when you do it in a real world setting in clinicals, which is another great aspect of BNIT's training.
"Jen and BNIT really tailor the experience to the learning needs of the individual. They've made it much easier for me to succeed and I feel so much more confident. I don't doubt any more my ability to become a nurse, and a good one at that.
"I feel privileged and lucky to have Jen as a teacher; she is absolutely the best in the business, I wouldn't want to be studying anywhere else but at BNIT."