After working on and off in healthcare for 25 years, Karita McCarthy realised her dream of becoming a registered nurse in 2020 at age 47 and is already spreading her nursing wings.
“I had always been in the healthcare system and when my kids had grown up, I decided to become a nurse because that’s what I always wanted to be,” Karita said.
Karita, a proud Waanyi Tagalaka woman, completed her nursing studies in the Northern Territory with the support of Australian College of Nursing’s Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship, the NT’s cadetship program, and the Mediserve Indigenous Nursing Scholarship.
Karita flourished in her studies, taking out the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives Nursing Student of the Year and NAIDOC Scholar of the Year.
And now she is getting back to her roots in the Central West town of Winton.
“I always wanted to work On Country, and I wanted to be in the Central West as my family grew up in Cloncurry. It took me longer than I thought to get a permanent job, but when I was offered this role in Winton it was the best day of my life.”
Karita is now one of 17 participants in the Rural Generalist Registered Nurse Program (RGRNP).
The Queensland Health program supports nurses to become well-rounded rural nurses, including developing skills in advanced life support and paediatric life support, triaging, working in an emergency department, and leading a team.
“So far, I’ve done the primary healthcare module and the Take the Lead Program. I grew so much as a nurse and as a person doing Take the Lead,’’ Karita said.
“It really made me stop and reassess where I wanted to go with my nursing career. When you are part of a team, learning about your own personality and how you communicate with other people and how others see you is really important.
“Everybody that is doing it [the RGRNP] is really supportive and we bounce off each other. I’ve told them about the importance of touching base with the Elders in their community. Pop over and have a cup of tea, introduce yourself, and ask them, ‘what do I need to know about this community? Where can we swim or go bush?’ That kind of stuff,” she said.
“I know many First Nations people may experience racism in their lives. As a First Nations person, I know more about what they are dealing with, and people think it’s better for an Indigenous person to treat them. But I would encourage non-Indigenous clinicians to learn about First Nations culture and stories and why they do what they do. The First Nations workforce is too small to do it all.”
“That’s why I studied so hard - because I wanted to help other Indigenous people, not just as a nurse but so they know they can do this too if they want. It’s not in the too hard basket – if I can do it at 47 you can too.”
Information regarding nursing scholarships for First Nations people can be found on the Queensland Government website.