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A rural Queensland nurse’s message of resilience to young people

Chelsea Bligh spent the first seven years of her life chasing four older siblings around the family’s rural Queensland cattle estate.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains images of deceased persons.

Wife Wulli Wulli hoped to grow up and marry a farmer like her idols in Australian drama McLeod’s Daughters.

After graduating from Rockhampton boarding school, the teenager relied on her connections to a remote Indigenous community in central Queensland.

“I went there and asked if there were any jobs,” she said.

As a child, Mrs. Bligh watched McLeod’s Daughters and dreamed of marrying a farmer.(Supplied: Chelsea Bligh)

Ms Bligh started working at Woorabinda Multi-Purpose Health Service in April 2016 which evolved into an Internship and Certificate III in Primary Health Care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Six years later, through pivotal moments in her life, setbacks and against her own doubts, the 23-year-old graduated with a bachelor’s degree.

“I never thought I would be a nurse,” Ms Bligh said.

Chelsea standing in front of a board with writing on it, smiling, arm akimbo, wearing a nurse's uniform.
Ms Bligh recently started a new job at Moura Hospital as a registered nurse.(Supplied: Chelsea Bligh)

Cultivate a love for nursing

Ms Bligh befriended Liz Young, a nurse midwife in Woorabinda, who became one of her mentors.

“I started working with her and learning from her, developing connections with mental health people,” she said.

“It really made me realize that mental health is such an issue in Australia and among Indigenous people, especially [those] live in remote areas. »

Close up of Liz with her hand to her face, wearing big sunglasses.
Ms Bligh found a mentor, friend and idol in Woorabinda nurse Liz Young, who has since died.(Supplied: Chelsea Bligh)

Ms. Young’s unexpected death devastated her.

“I was still studying, and it was hard to study full time and then go to work full time, and then obviously recover from your loss,” she said.

“We were short-staffed in community health for a while, then I did a bit of child health stuff where I did pediatric clinics.

“It was really nice to bond with the families and the mothers, to see their babies blossoming when you know they’ve struggled in the past.

“I learned so much and that’s where my love for nursing came from.”

Ms Bligh was also inspired by her late grandmother Beryl Pickering, who had worked as a nurse midwife in Monto.

Building Resilience

Ms Bligh completed her nursing degree at CQUniversity in December 2021 after more than five grueling years.

“I hated nursing, I absolutely didn’t like it and for three years too,” she said.

After two attempts at a subject, she discouraged and vowed to give up if she failed on her third attempt.

“I failed about 0.5% [the second time] and I had put so much effort into it and then having to do the subject again, it was really upsetting,” she said.

“So also having to go to work nine days a fortnight.”

The determined graduate said in retrospect that these challenges shaped her.

“With work, failure, the death of one of my idols, then the death of my nanny, and people being rude to you – whether it’s patients, nurses, facilitators – it has really increased my resilience as a person,” she said.

Dear young people

Sunday Pam, acting director of pediatrics at Rockhampton Hospital, noticed Ms Bligh’s passion during a placement with her team.

“I saw her potential and I think she would have a great career in pediatric nursing or child health,” Dr. Pam said.

“Chelsea have worked full-time as a health worker while studying nursing part-time, and it shows incredible initiative.

“I am very proud of Chelsea and wish him every success in his career.”

Dr. Pam wearing a light blue shirt smiling, Chelsea leaning on his shoulder smiling.
Ms Bligh says she owed ‘special thanks’ to Sunday Pam for her help on her journey to becoming a registered nurse.(Supplied: Chelsea Bligh)

Ms Bligh urged school leavers to believe in themselves.

“The rain isn’t permanent. Just keep going through it, it’s worth it in the end,” she said.

“There’s something in the world that people can do and when they find it, they’re absolutely good at it.”

More Indigenous health workers

Ms Bligh said her eyes were opened to how ‘indigenous people are neglected’.

“We don’t have a lot of indigenous health professionals,” she said.

“We have a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander liaison officers working, and health workers, throughout the week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We should have more indigenous health professionals because a lot of things happen outside of working hours. »

Chelsea standing on the tarmac with her hands in her pockets, the Royal Flying Doctors service plane behind her.
Ms Bligh says rural nursing is a sink or swim situation.(Supplied: Chelsea Bligh)

Ms Bligh said the benefits went beyond medical treatment.

“You would go into an Indigenous person’s room, and you would look at their last name and you would instantly make the connection, or you would ask them, ‘Do you know this person? “.

“You would spend hours chatting with them because they just have an instant smile on their face, they would feel relaxed around you.”

Brianna and Chelsea are smiling, either side of their grandmother lying in a hospital bed.
Brianna Bligh and her sister Chelsea followed in the footsteps of their late grandmother who was a nurse.(Supplied: Chelsea Bligh)

Ms Bligh left Woorabinda to start working as a registered nurse.

She plans to study midwifery in the future.

“My McLeod’s Daughters dream has faded away. Maybe I could still marry a farmer here in Moura, I don’t know,” she said.

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