WHAT do you do if you've got a nursing shortage?
Well, you grown your own, of course!
Coffs Harbour's first crop of 21 homegrown registered nurses will graduate at the local Southern Cross University campus today, and more than 50 per cent of them are already employed locally.
Margo Burl is one such student. She has been working at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus under the new graduates program.
"Graduating feels a bit like a dream, like it isn't real ? but it feels good," she said.
So does it represent the achievement of a lifelong goal?
"More like a lifelong procrastination!" she laughed.
"The worst thing about studying in Coffs is the distraction of the beach."
But seriously, Margo probably wouldn't have studied to be a nurse if the course hadn't been offered locally, and the course has heralded a new era of positive change ? both for Margo personally and for the Coffs Harbour community.
Health Campus director of nursing Steve Rodwell said an increasingly strong relationship with the university had many positives, particularly the capacity for the region to 'grown its own nurses'.
Southern Cross University lecturer and clinical placements director Janie Petersen said Coffs Harbour nursing students and academics would also contribute to the body of nursing knowledge through the research that is part of the department's academic day-to-day business.
A total of 155 students across a variety of disciplines will graduate today, with another 32 graduates receiving their awards in absentia.
The main courtyard of the campus has been transformed for the ceremony, held outdoors for the first time.