Last year, Bachelor of Nursing alumna, Sarah Dove, was recognised at the Ambassadors of Change Awards, for her work as a nursing tutor for the UC Refugee Transition Program. Sarah is incredibly passionate about the profession and is now working to help other nurses on their path.
After testing the waters in higher education in the domains of teaching and global development, Sarah eventually landed in a nursing degree — and realised she’d found the perfect fit.
“I’ve always had diverse interests; In school I enjoyed the sciences, but also the arts, and couldn’t figure out which one I wanted to pursue,” Sarah says.
“In nursing you get both; You use your empathy, caring and communication but then you also rely heavily on the sciences —you need to be across pharmacology and math and have an understanding what's going on in a person's body. I often describe nursing as a job where you use your head and your heart in equal measure.”
Sarah had always been passionate about social justice and while she was unquestionably happy with nursing role, she still harboured some disappoint that she might not do that. That was until, a chance advertisement for nursing tutors changed her life.
“The notification came up on Canvas; At first, I thought, that could be cool, I do enjoy teaching, I could make this a side hustle,” Sarah says.
“Then I realised what it was really about; I learnt about the Refugee Transition Program and the Equity and Participation team. I realised I could teach, and share my love of nursing, and there’s also that really important aspect of fighting injustice and helping to make change.”
The University’s Equity and Participation team run a broad range of initiatives to support students from diverse backgrounds to access higher education. Through her new role as a tutor within the Refugee Transition Program, Sarah would work one-on-one with students who had come from refugee backgrounds, providing that additional academic support to get through their university studies.
Sarah is a nurturer by nature, and her friendships with her students soon blossomed. Although she hadn’t tutored before, she quickly found her own way in providing that support and sharing her knowledge on nursing. As her students learned, so did Sarah.
“Each week I'm learning new things about the tutoring process. I think the biggest thing I've learned, is that you have to take some time to figure out how a person learns,” Sarah says.
“I'm an auditory learner but I realised very quickly that that wasn't working with my students. One of my students in particular, she's so visual, so we switched it up and started using the whiteboards, drawing diagrams etc.”
She meets with her students for a few hours each week, they revise the course content, prepare for upcoming assessments and go over any questions the students might have, or anything they may need clarification on.
“We meet for a few hours each week and we study — hard. Early on, we worked to build their understanding of university work and assignments, I introduced one of my students to OneNote for referencing — it’s a gamer changer! We go through a lot of things to do with anatomy and physiology,” Sarah says.
Although Sarah had taken those very same units just years before, through her lens as a supporter for someone of a refugee background, Sarah reflected on how much more challenging it can be for non-English speakers, or those who haven’t has access to the same levels of education, to understand and keep up with the highly technical units of the qualification.
“Before I was even born, I was set up for success. I was born into Australia into an English-speaking family. We had financial stability growing up, and parents and family are incredibly supportive,” Sarah says.
“None of us choose the circumstances we're born into, so it's up to all of us to uplift one another so that everyone can reach their full potential.”
She couldn’t help but fall deeply in love with the role, and the young women she was working with.
“The students I tutor are just unreal — their brains are awesome, and they've got so much to offer,” Sarah says.
“It didn't take me long to genuinely care about these girls and where go with their lives,”
“It's also been so rewarding to me to, to get to know them. And it's fun to see them getting excited about nursing as well!”
The future is looking bright for Sarah — she starts at Canberra Hospital’s graduate nursing program in February and hopes to have the opportunity to work in paediatrics — she’s passionate about the mission of the Refugee Transition Program and won’t be giving up her beloved new found role anytime soon.
“Going into nursing was so important to me, it ticks so many of my boxes, but I’ve always had that longing to make change and fight injustice,” Sarah says.
“The fact that I can do that now through the Refugee Transition Program, while sharing my knowledge on nursing, and doing what I love, it's just it's the whole picture. I pinch myself sometimes, but I'm actually doing everything that I’ve ever wanted — this is amazing.”
Words and photo by Kelly White