Kelli finds strength, new career focus after stroke | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Kelli finds strength, new career focus after stroke

Stroke survivor Kelli Berghofer considers herself one of the luckiest people alive and intends to ‘give back’ to those who helped her when she needed it most by dedicating her life to a career in nursing.

The Hervey Bay mother-of-two has just completed her final semester of Nursing Science at USC’s Fraser Coast campus, a degree she began as part of her challenging physical, mental and emotional recovery from a stroke, aged 38.

“I chose nursing because if it wasn’t for the support and care that I received, I may not be here to share my story,” said Kelli, a former school administration officer who lost movement down her left-hand side following the stroke.

“You never really know just how strong and resilient you are until adversity hits. It completely changed my outlook on life,” she said. “With this in mind, I found the courage to leave my permanent job to pursue my degree.”

Kelli, who was recently accepted into Queensland Health’s Registered Nurse Graduate Program, said her proudest educational achievement was completing her first university degree at age 41, achieving final grades of distinction and high distinction across all subjects.

“I am doing something for myself in seeking a career, as well as being a role model for my two teenage daughters,” she said. “I am also giving back to my community through a profession where I am caring and compassionate when people need it the most.”

One of Kelli’s final placements was with the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) at its new joint aeromedical base with LifeFlight Australia in Bundaberg.

It was an adventurous, challenging and rewarding experience that Kelli said helped her realise her long-term nursing goals.

“I am excited to begin a graduate role working as an intensive care nurse,” she said. “I plan to complete a post graduate degree in critical care nursing and hope to eventually secure a position as a flight nurse with the RFDS.

“I loved flying, visiting rural areas and providing care for vulnerable clients when they needed it most, and I appreciated the clinical diversity and broad scope of practice required by a flight nurse and the organising, forward-thinking and multi-tasking required in the role.” 

Kelli said her successful journey from stroke to recovery and academic success was achieved through invaluable assistance and education provided by USC lecturers, tutors and learning advisors – along with the ongoing support of her family and close friends.

“Throughout my entire degree, I had access to a range of learning resources, academic skills workshops, library and research support, health and wellbeing services, financial support and scholarships, and access to advice on careers and employability.” 

As part of the vow that she made to give back to others, Kelli took on several leadership and volunteer roles during her studies, including as a peer support mentor for first and second-year Nursing Science and Midwifery students.

She also volunteered with Active Minds, a student-led mental health support group, and was involved in USC’s Students as Partners Program that aims to increase student success and engagement in learning and develop leadership skills.

“My message to my daughters and others is to be kind and wake up each day with an open heart – life can change in a blink of an eye,” Kelli said. “No matter how old you are, and what life throws at you, barriers can be overcome with resilience, determination and perseverance.”

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