At just 28 years of age, Tomakin’s Bonnie Chatfield has experienced some of life’s greatest challenges.
After becoming a mother at 14, she spent the next few years in hospital supporting her own terminally-ill mum who sadly passed away when Ms Chatfield was just 17.
It was this experience, however, that inspired her to follow her dream of becoming a nurse.
“(Mum) was in palliative care and it was up there in Canberra that I decided, after being there with her every day and seeing what the nurses were doing for her, that I wanted to do nursing,” Ms Chatfield said.
As a mother of three, she waited until last year to enrol in a Diploma of Nursing with TAFE NSW at Batemans Bay and will soon graduate as an enrolled nurse.
Ms Chatfield said her persistence in pursuing an education could inspire anyone.
Because nursing is where my heart lies, I put the effort in. I’d work till 10 at night, study till 3 in the morning and go to TAFE at 9am.Bonnie Chatfield
“I’ve wanted to do it for 10 years, I just had to wait for the kids to get older and now I can finally do a job I’ll like doing and not one that I have to do,” she said.
“Hospitality, retail – it was never really where my passion was, but nursing was my intention from the beginning, it just took a little while to get there.”
She believed her mum would be proud of her achievements against all odds.
“When I had Harmony at 14, so many people said I wasn’t going to get anywhere in life, but I never saw it that way,” she said.
“I like to think I’ve proven to people that it doesn’t matter how young you are, you can do it.
“You can be successful and you can achieve what you want to achieve whether you’ve had kids young or not.”
She encouraged others in challenging situations to persevere.
“Because nursing is where my heart lies, I put the effort in. I’d work till 10 at night, study till 3 in the morning and go to TAFE at 9am,” she said.
“I was working 36-hour weeks to pay bills and support everyone and study on top. It was tough, but it’s good to know now I have a career and I don’t have to struggle.”
(Mum) was in palliative care and it was up there in Canberra that I decided, after being there with her every day and seeing what the nurses were doing for her, that I wanted to do nursing.Bonnie Chatfield
Having a TAFE campus in Batemans Bay meant she was able to study nursing 15 minutes from her home.
“I am proud of what I have achieved, but there were times I could have quit had it not been for my teacher, Janie Fitz – she was so supportive,” Ms Chatfield said.
“She was a real motivator and mentor who helped get me through.”
Ms Chattfield is now inspired to add to her diploma and study at university to become a registered nurse. She hopes her career will take her far and wide.
“Nursing is a career I can travel with and I can now go on to do my RN and travel the world,” she said. “I just want to go everywhere – England, America, Greece.”
Batemans Bay Nursing teacher Janie Fitz said she had noticed increasing interest in the Diploma of Nursing, which is a requisite for employment as an enrolled nurse.
Her observation was echoed in a report by TAFE NSW, which revealed a forecast increase in demand for health workers, particularly those qualified as aged or disabled carers, by 2021.
The region’s ageing population is driving much of the growth in the health sector.