12 July 2023

Wagga teen's own health journey steered her on a path into nursing

| Chris Roe
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young woman with award

Wagga’s Jade Tapfield has been named the Regional Training Awards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year. Photo: Supplied.

Seventeen-year-old Jade Tapfield spent much of her childhood being cared for in the health system. Now that she’s on the way to completing year 12, she’s back in hospital to build a career in health care.

“When I was born, I actually had a hole in my heart and I spent most of my first five years in hospitals,” she said.

“And as a horse rider, I’m also constantly breaking bones, so they gave a lot to me and I think that’s what turned my mindset on working in health and giving back to other people as well.”

Combining study at Kooringal High with a school-based traineeship through TAFE NSW, Jade has just been named the Regional Training Awards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year.

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The proud Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi woman grew up in Wagga and said the School-Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships (SBAT) option had kept her engaged with education as well as working at Wagga Base Hospital.

An accomplished equestrian, Jade has competed in eventing for years and was preparing to quit school to work on the family farm, where she keeps her six horses.

“Without this SBAT, I was going to drop out in year 10 because school was just not my thing. Not because I wasn’t smart enough or anything, but just because I didn’t want to be there and I really prefer being in a workplace,” she explained.

“I thought, why not give nursing a go?

“MLHD [Murrumbidgee Local Health District]) has been the biggest support with school and with work, so now I’m determined to finish school and get my HSC as well as my SBAT certificate.”

young female equestrian

Jade putting Ellie through her paces. Photo: Supplied.

With just a few months to go, Jade plans to continue studying nursing at TAFE NSW and hopes to work in Indigenous communities.

“I’ve always been very community and culturally involved, but when I started doing this, I was able to speak on behalf of my own Indigenous peoples and really help them out with getting health services,” she said.

“I think it’s been really, really beneficial because a lot of Indigenous people don’t like coming into the health service.”

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To get a taste of what remote nursing is like, Jade has applied for a station in Mt Isa, Queensland, next year.

“It’s a big community area, so it’s about connecting with the community as well as going out there to work and getting that idea of what remote nursing is like, so when I finish my studies I’ll have half an idea of what I’m going into,” she said.

Wherever she ends up, Jade said she would make sure there was still time to ride.

“Of course I could never give up my horses,” she said with a laugh.

“They might reduce the amount of shows I go to if I take up all these opportunities, but definitely would never give them up!”

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