It revitalises me: Passion for helping people leads to accolades for nursing student

Carina Fernandes

A Western Sydney University nursing student has been recognised for her substantial contributions to the communities of Western Sydney.  

Carina Fernandes has been named by the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) as an Emerging Nurse Leader for 2021.  

The Emerging Nurse Leader Program gives practicing nurses and students the opportunity to develop leadership skills by participating in a range of mentoring, coaching and professional development activities.  

Carina earned a place in the prestigious program due to her academic achievements and vast experience in volunteering and community advocacy.

“People ask me all the time, ‘How do you fit it all in?’ But for me, volunteering isn’t something that I need to make time for – it’s woven into my life,” said Carina.  

“My passion is helping people, so I’m always looking for opportunities to contribute. I help when I can between lectures and assignments, or I take my children with me when I volunteer. It’s just what I do, it is an important part of my life and it revitalises me.”  

The inspirational mother of three, who lives in Penrith, is actively engaged in the University community. She is a member of The Academy, where she completed the Citizen Scholar Award and the Reading Ambassador Program. Through The Academy she was also a United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) Millennium Fellow in 2018, and in 2019 she participated in the University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Malaysia.  

Carina has volunteered as a MATES Mentor for commencing students; participated in the Lead, Engage, Aspire, Develop (LEAD) program; and was part of the University's Academic Integrity video. She has also worked as a Peer Assisted Study Session (PASS) Facilitator in Bioscience, helping fellow students understand and enjoy their course content; as a Western Success Student Advisor, offering support for international students whose studies were impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic; and as a Transition Success Contact Agent who contacts commencing students to support them in their transition to university study.

Within the Penrith community, Carina is a member of the Penrith City Council Resilience Committee; Vice President of the P&C at a local School; and volunteers for a number of humanitarian and environmental projects that aim to help local families in need and reduce the impact of extreme heat in the community.  

In addition to Carina’s most recent accomplishment, of being named an Emerging Nurse Leader, she was also nominated in the Community category of the Women of the West Awards in 2020 and won a ZEST Unsung Heroes Award in 2019.  

Carina’s career path has always been motivated by a desire to help people, but she has taken a round-about path to nursing. Initially, she completed a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science (Molecular Biotechnology) at the University of Sydney, and had roles in research labs as a scientist and in a managing role fundraising for non-profit organisations.  

“As much as I loved science, and the work that I was doing, I did feel like there was a huge void in my life,” she said.  

“I was always motivated to help people, but once I had children, my perspective really changed. I started to appreciate life on a whole new level, and I became more sensitive to the problems that people were facing in the community.  

“I felt even more motivated to find ways that I could help people in more meaningful ways – and that’s when I decided to become a nurse.”  

Now having finished her third and final year of the Bachelor of Nursing (Advanced) degree at Western, Carina has accepted a graduate nurse position at Nepean Hospital.

The best thing about nursing is that it is lifelong learning, there are so many opportunities and you get back tenfold of what you put into it.”


11 January 2021

Photo: Sally Tsoutas

Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer