Fortune favours the brave

Becoming a single parent of two children, ages 10 and six, and full-time carer for her parents was the catalyst for a major life change.



Story By

Julie-Ann Jeffrey

Suellen Knight’s mother always wanted to be a nurse, so did her grandmother who had volunteered extensively with the Red Cross. Neither of them had an opportunity to fulfill that dream.

“I didn’t believe I had the fortitude to take on such a demanding role,” said Suellen about her decision not to pursue nursing after high school. Instead she spent years working in other fields while the idea of becoming a nurse simmered in the background.

Becoming a single parent of two children, ages 10 and six, and full-time carer for her parents was the catalyst for a major life change. Suellen’s father had diabetes and failing kidneys, and her mother was rapidly deteriorating from dementia.

Suddenly her world involved regular visits to doctors, hospitals and managing her parent’s ailments at home. She was immersed in understanding diagnosis, providing constant care and navigating the medical system. On top of that, she was getting used to being a single mum.

In the turmoil of these challenges, Suellen’s interest in becoming a nurse was reignited.

“One of the biggest factors to accepting my placement at university was the Transforming Futures Scholarship, without it I just wouldn’t have been able to undertake the degree.”

So at 49, Suellen bravely commenced her Bachelor of Nursing. “I was a little nervous about studying but I absolutely love it,” she says. ”The technology today, it’s amazing, and I’m learning about what I love.”

In previous jobs Suellen was involved in worker’s compensation, insurance claims and human resources, she found that there was always more she wanted to know. It was a natural curiosity about health issues, the body, and issues affecting people in pain, which drove her to learn more.

“I always wanted to know more about the body, about how much pain someone was in, how to best deal with it,” she said of her time working in other fields.

In her third year, Suellen is candid about the juggling act of studying while raising two children and caring for her parents.

“I was constantly having to make sure someone was home with mum, it was hard doing placements at hospital, worrying if mum was okay and not feeling fully present to the task at hand,” She explains.

Now in her final year of studies, Suellen’s father has passed away and her mother has entered an aged care facility. “I’m able to enjoy a full night’s sleep and relax a little more with my kids,” she commented. “I still visit my mother every day.

“You realise there’s always mountains and valleys, and it’s not easy,” she says. “But the University staff have been really accommodating.”

It has taken her deep courage and determination to get to where she is today.  After graduating Suellen hopes to embody the title of Registered Nurse and may also undertake postgraduate studies.

“I’m passionate about giving the elderly the respect and dignity they deserve,” she says about possibly pursuing a postgraduate specialisation. “The elderly should be valued for the effort they have made throughout their life and not resented for being a burden at the end.”

When she graduates, a multi—generational desire will be fulfilled and a new chapter in Suellen’s life will begin.

“The scholarship gave me the opportunity to fulfill a lifetime dream, not only for myself but for my mother and grandmother,” she says.


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