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Why I changed career path from corporal to carer

By Gavin 16 Dec 2019
2 USQ nursing students talking and holding textbook.

If you were to ask me what has motivated my career decisions to date, I would tell you that for the most part, significant life events have shaped each move I’ve made. These were things I never could have seen coming, but that had a huge impact on the paths I would take in my career.

My decision to join the Defence Forces was one I made after watching an event I knew would change the world forever. I was sitting at home watching television late into the night and witnessed the Twin Towers crumble right before my eyes. Within the week I was at the recruitment office gathering applications. I enlisted in the general reserves, before working full-time for five and a half years in the Military Police in the Close Personal Protection Unit.

During my service, I spent a lot of time away from my family on training exercises and deployments including two tours to Iraq, one to East Timor and three-and-a-half months in Malaysia. I enjoyed my time in the services and learned a lot of varied and useful skills, but after five and a half years, I decided I had spent more than enough time away from home.

Image of man in Army attire.
My time in the Defence Force proved to be a great career platform.

As I was discharging from the Army, I was faced with yet another powerful and unforeseeable life event. I found myself in the position of providing palliative care to a member of my family. I realised the importance and impact that good care can have on the quality of life of a person who is dying, and from that experience my new career path was discovered. I made the decision to enter into the nursing profession and enrolled as a full-time, on-campus nursing student, while also working on a permanent part-time basis in the aged care sector as a personal care worker

The transition to studying full-time at university wasn’t something that I found difficult because studying and development is a continual process in the Army. That being said, I still definitely could not have done it without the support of my parents (yes, even as a mature aged student) and my wife and children. I graduated with distinction and as Valedictorian in 2015, which was not only an honour for me, but also made my parents extremely proud as I am the only son of three to attend university.

Image of Gavin on his graduation day.
Standing proudly as Valedictorian on the day of my Graduation Ceremony

I now work in a very busy mental health inpatient ward and have discovered that nursing shares a very similar structure to the Defence Force. I have no doubt that any success I have in nursing can be attributed to the foundation skills I learned and adopted in the Army. For example, my diligent approach to documenting events in my role was taught to me and well-practiced during my time as a military policeman. It’s a skill that carried over naturally to the field of mental health nursing.

Image of two male nurses standing in a Hospital.
I never predicted a career in nursing.

In my new career I am enjoying the dynamic environment that nursing provides. I’m never sure what each day will present and I enjoy the acute environment and the inherent volatility that exists. I think my background in military policing makes me well suited me for the position! I know some people might think the change from a military career to a nursing one is unusual, but for me it has been a natural and fulfilling career progression.

My advice to anyone reading this is to embrace the paths that life leads you to. Have the conviction to let the skills, interests and understanding that you develop while dealing with life events inspire you to push your career into new directions. Because when you’re career is fuelled by deep-rooted motivation, that’s when you’ll feel fulfilled.

If a recent life event has prompted you to reconsider your career direction or you’re just interested in knowing how your skills could transfer into a new industry, get in touch with the Careers & Employability Team for advice and guidance on changing career paths.

Author profile image of Gavin