Answering the call
What drives a husband and wife to take on a massive life change together with the aim of becoming nurses in rural and remote communities?
For carpenter Jacob Cox and police officer Liana Cox, the answer is simple – they want to make a difference where it is most needed.
For now – after diving headfirst into the Nursing Science degree they began this semester at the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Gympie campus – life for Jacob and Liana is about the juggle and the struggle of raising their two young children, while working and studying.
In a few years, the Kenilworth couple intends to face new challenges – at the front line of healthcare in one of Australia’s remote Indigenous communities where they could be the only health professionals for hundreds of kilometres.
“For me, the end game is a really exciting and motivating aspect. To be able to work alongside each other in the nursing profession and share in the highs and lows that come with it, I think that is something quite unique.”
Recruiting and retaining a qualified health workforce is an ongoing challenge in rural and remote areas, contributing to the poor health of many who live there, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Jacob, a Bidjara man born in south west Queensland, says the extreme disparity between healthcare in metropolitan and rural and remote areas is concerning.
“It’s about recognising that it’s a privilege to live in areas such as South-East Queensland, with a wide array of health services at our fingertips,” Jacob, 28, said.
“That is really lacking for Indigenous Australians who are geographically isolated from the services they often need.”
Together, Jacob and Liana want to help reduce those deficits.
And they recognise that an important part of improving health outcomes is understanding and respecting customs and the cultural way of life of those who live in Australia’s Indigenous communities.
“We want to make a difference to the outcomes of Indigenous people in remote areas by providing person-centred care and culturally-safe healthcare and education,” Liana said.
Making meaningful connections and empowering and supporting people, often when they are at their most vulnerable, is seen as being at the heart of the nursing profession.
For 29-year-old Liana, it is this focus that makes the switch from policing to nursing a natural career pivot.
"Both careers have the common element of providing a service to the community," Liana said.
"This is an aspect of my job that I find really rewarding and it gives me a great deal of job satisfaction.
“I have always had a strong interest in healthcare.
"My move to study Nursing Science at UniSC is inspired by the desire to make a difference to both the way in which people experience healthcare, and the level of care that they have available .”
Carpentry has been Jacob’s life since doing work experience in the construction industry in Year 9.
The following year he began a school-based carpentry apprenticeship and completed his apprenticeship in 2015 after graduating from high school.
It has been an enormous step to pick up the study books.
"It is something I have wanted for a long time but never thought it would be a possibility for me."
“After being in the building industry for so long, applying to university to become a nurse felt like such a drastic change," he said.
“Also, having a young family and the need to remain working full-time to be financially stable made studying seem out of reach. I wasn’t sure if I would be accepted into the course, I just decided to give it a crack, and make the change.”
But he hasn’t downed the tools just yet.
He is currently studying part-time while working full-time as a site supervisor.
Jacob’s ultimate career goal is to become a midwife.
“Our experiences in the hospital setting during Liana’s pregnancies and post-partum, have steered me down this path,” he said.
“I found it hard to see a loved one go through such a vulnerable stage of life and realised how important it is that they feel supported and heard by their health care providers.
“I want to offer patients, their babies and families skilled, knowledgeable and compassionate care.”
The couple are both nervous and excited for this academic and career change journey.
“We do have a long road between now and then."
“We've been studying together for only a few months, and have further study we wish to do once we complete our Bachelor of Nursing Science,” said Liana who is on maternity leave from the Queensland Police Service.
"It is a lot to take on, I have absolutely no doubt that we are in for a very busy time ahead. We are very fortunate that both of our families live close by and provide unwavering support when we need it,” she said.
“Additionally, we have each other to lean on. Studying together gives us the opportunity to keep each other motivated when that mental exhaustion from academic study inevitably sets in.
“Coming from two very different areas – policing and carpentry – we haven't had that shared knowledge in terms of our careers before.
“Now we are able have academic conversations around the topics we are learning, and that has been really enjoyable.”