The University of Newcastle, Australia

After a camping accident left nursing student Jessica Coleman with extensive burns, plans were made to defer her studies while she recovered. Not one to be told what to do, Jessica defied the odds to finish her degree in 2019, and added a baby to the mix for good measure.

“My biggest motivation to push through my recovery and finish my degree was the fact that everyone kept telling me I shouldn’t or couldn’t, because of my condition and extent of my injuries,” Jessica said.

“I felt that was a good reason to do it and it would show others in my position that anything is possible.”

Spending three months in hospital following the January 2018 accident, in which Jessica suffered third degree burns to 40% of her body, the first-in-family student’s determination only wavered when she thought she’d lost the use of her hand.

“I had to undergo a number of surgeries to recorrect my right hand to enable me to be able to get good function of it,” she said.

“Finishing my degree in my burns suit was not ideal, but to now be able to work in the field is something I have wanted for what seems like forever, and to know it’s finally here is amazing.”

With an appetite to defy challenges, Jessica and her partner decided to take on another round of IVF after her release from hospital. Despite a few attempts prior to her accident, this round was a success, with daughter Mia Grace joining the family in early 2019.

First becoming a mum at the age of 20, Jessica said her love for kids initially prompted her to pursue midwifery, but since the accident she’s discovered her passion to work within a burns unit.

“My first class back was on the sepsis and burns ward, so instead of my return feeling overwhelming, it was an opportunity to share my unfortunate experience,” Jessica said.

“It would be great to have a burns unit in Newcastle one day, but until then I’m enjoying my work in aged care. Caring for the elderly and people in need is incredibly rewarding.”

Jessica will graduate on Tuesday 17 December at 2pm.

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Jessica Coleman

Jessica Coleman studied a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Newcastle.

My biggest motivation to push through my recovery and finish my degree was the fact that everyone kept telling me I shouldn’t or couldn’t, because of my condition and extent of my injuries.