Allie Hill described it as daunting, when as a 15-year-old she took steps to start a school-based traineeship VET course.
But two years on, the 17-year-old who is now school captain at Tenterfield High School has been recognised for her hard work as a trainee health service assistant.
At last month's 2022 NSW Training Awards ceremony in Tamworth, she received a highly commended award for School Based Trainee of the Year.
"I was encouraged by a family friend who had also completed the traineeship to apply," Allie recalled.
"I was only 15 and had to follow an application process and have a formal interview, looking back now that in itself was a great experience.
Undertaking the school-based traineeship gives Allie the chance to complete my certificate III Health Service Assistant as part of my HSC.
During the last 18 months she has worked one day each week during the school term, studies TAFE online every Thursday and attends face to face learning once a month at the TAFE campus in Inverell.
Then in the school holidays she works one full week at the hospital.
"I'm out of the classroom two days a week so that is a massive challenge for me," Allie said.
"Catching up on my school work is hard but most of my teachers are really supportive and I'm lucky to have some good friends who make sure I don't miss anything."
Helping people was what attracted Allie to a nursing career, while her personal experiences have also played a role.
"Unfortunately, two years ago I had a family member diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer.
'We had eight weeks with him before he passed away, he only had a short time in hospital, but observing how the nurses cared not only him, but for all my family members made me know I wanted to continue my plans of becoming a nurse.
"It made me want to help other families the way medical staff helped my family," she said.
Allie said completing her training at Tenterfield PAM Hospital had broadened her knowledge of the nursing industry.
"It has also made me more compassionate and thankful for life itself," Allie said.
"It has given me confidence and I have found strength in myself I didn't know I had. I have definitely matured as a young adult."
Allie said the most valuable thing she has learnt about is the struggles of others and to always reserve judgment.
"No one asks to be in terrible situations, and with just a little kindness we as nurses can change someone's whole day or even their life."
She said the staff at the hospital have been amazing mentors and wonderful influences.
"Everyone has been so kind from the doctors, the nursing staff, the cleaners, allied health members and admin staff. They have all supported me and always make sure I am doing ok.
"I have definitely formed some very special bonds."
Tony Roberts, the health service manager at the hospital, nominated Allie for the trainee of the year award, which she said was an absolute honour.
Once she finishes year 12, Allie said she plans to study a bachelor of nursing at university.
Then she would love to specialise in midwifery or paediatric nursing, she said.
"I plan to work in remote parts of Australia and eventually travel the world working in these areas but who knows what will happen."
Allie said she would be forever grateful to everyone who helped along the way.
"My main message from this experience is no matter how scared you are, if you're passionate about something and there is an opportunity for you to live your dream, take it, you'll never know what might happen."
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