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Keeping it in the family: mother, daughter graduate with nursing degrees

“How would you have gone if you had taken your mum to uni, Conor?” recent nursing graduate and mother Lorella McLatchey asks me.

As I ponder this, I imagine sitting at the uni bar while my mother stares at me disapprovingly, or us falling out when my mother gets better marks than me.

I crack up laughing before I can get another question out.

Lorella and daughter Laine McClatchy have both recently graduated from USC, each with a Bachelor of Nursing degree, and when I ask for any juicy stories of awkward moments during their three years at uni together, I was a little disappointed and touched in equal measures with the response.

“Not really, mum is my best friend,” Laine said.

A mother and daughter heading to uni at the same time and studying the same degree may be uncommon, but they both entered nursing for very common reasons.

It was Laine who originally wanted to go into the profession.

“Laine was always going to be a doctor or a nurse,” Lorella said.

“I think I've always wanted to care for people. I've always had that side,” Laine said.

“I actually went down the business route in school. I did that as a subject. I wanted to do marketing, and then I was like, 'Mm, no thanks.' I didn't like it at all. So, then I came back to the nursing.”

“Changed all her subjects, for senior year, to do the nursing,” interjects Lorella. (They often jump in and out of each other’s sentences in the easy back and forth way best friends do.)

“So that's always been my goal. I went straight from school into doing the degree. I've always wanted to do it.”

As for Lorella, who had previously worked in the family business and admin roles, this was a chance to do something new.

“I had been at that crossroad a couple of times previously and I was like, 'You know what, I need to start using my brain again. I'm going to go to Uni.' Then we moved. Then life takes over again,” she said.

“The timing just was not right. It just didn't work out. So then when this opportunity came along I thought, 'I'm just going to go for it.'”

The two women went to open days together at a few unis, but it was USC and the conversations that she had with nursing professors that made up Lorella’s mind.

“We met a couple of the tutors and lecturers. I ended up talking with the Associate Professor of Nursing. She was so encouraging, as in, 'You should go and do it as well. Come on you can do this.’”

And unlike me if I was in her situation, Laine was happy her mum was joining her.

“I thought it was great. Someone to pack my lunches still!” joked Laine.

“I was so excited. I think because mum and I are very close. I was a competitive swimmer in my younger days. Mum would always get up with me at 3:30 in the morning, take me to training, then to school, then back to training in the afternoon. So we already had this close bond.”

Facing living together, family commitments, uni assignments and an 18-year old’s social life, the ladies got through it together.

“She agreed that she was going to help me," Lorella said. "You know the old pinky promise. 'I'm going to help mum. I'm going to get you through, because I know…'”

“We got each other through the breakdowns. We could cry together,” Laine chimed in, finishing her mum's thought.

“It was difficult, because I hadn't written an assignment forever. I hadn't done referencing or anything like that. So, just getting back into that academic brain again. It was interesting. But we did, we got there, and we helped each other,” Lorella said.

Now that they are done with uni, the McLatcheys are heading out into the world of nursing – this time, apart.

“It feels a little odd, because I've always had mum there. Even on our placements, we would be at the same hospital and I can go across to a ward and be like, 'Where's mum?'" Laine said.

Laine had already stared as an occupational health role at Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld.

“I started in January and am loving the job so much,” Laine said.

“I administer first aid and do assessments on people at the park who might be sick or hurt, as well as drug and alcohol testing and mental health evaluations for staff. No two days are the same.”

And Lorella is currently applying for the mid-year intake of graduate nursing programs at hospitals in Brisbane.

“That's just a matter of jumping through all those hoops, which is not that easy. It's a long process and you kind of just have to hang in there and hope that something comes out of the whole thing,” she said.

“I would encourage anyone looking at studying later in life to look at the journey as a challenge and not put too much pressure on yourself. Enjoy the opportunity and take each day as it comes.”

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