Nursing students arrive for rural and remote medical experience

Broken Hill has just welcomed new nursing students from the University of Notre Dame Australia as part of a pilot nursing placement program.

Broken Hill City Council hosted a civic ceremony on Thursday evening at the Broken Hill City Art Gallery to welcome the new student nurses.

Danielle White, Director of the South West Academic Centre at the Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health, said the students were selected through a competitive process for the opportunity to experience rural and remote work.

“We’ve had 14 students through the pilot so far, and we really want the student nurses to experience rural and remote communities,” Ms White said.

The Far West New South Wales: Extended Nursing Placement Program is a pilot program designed to address the health inequities and workforce shortages that so often impact rural and remote health care access.

This is the first national trial of an alternative approach to final year nursing.

The program takes final year and final semester nursing students and trials them in a high-quality hospital or clinic placement and education experience for 20 weeks.

The placement enhances and extends what the nurses have learned at university by integrating nursing theory and practice in a clinical and practice setting.

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Student nurses have exposure to traditional hospital settings and a broader range of health care settings that will enhance their clinical, professional and civic learning outcomes.

Each nurse is immersed in the rural and remote community, giving them opportunities to assist and lead services they wouldn’t typically have.

“We want students to put the theory they’ve been learning into practice and get a great understanding of the communities they are going to so that they feel like they are part of the team and leave the program work-ready,” Ms White said.

The seven student nurses, Jaya Kander, Jessica Mair, Katharine Gibson, Kirra Jackson, Gemma O’Grady, Sophia Lising, and Eloise Daggar are undertaking orientation in Broken Hill until the end of the week.

After that initial orientation, the nurses will disperse around the region, with one nurse going to Menindee, two nurses to Balranald, two nurses to Robinvale and the other two nurses staying here in Broken Hill.

“The student nurses will complete their placement in December,” Ms White said.

These nurses are the second cohort of student nurses to arrive in the area.

The first group from the University of Sydney recently finished their placement and three of those nurses have expressed an interest in returning to the area, said Ms White.

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“The program is about allowing the students to feel like they become part of the community, so the students have opportunities and ultimately want to come back,” Ms White said.

A lot of the students have studied their degree online because of COVID. Most hadn’t met in person, so the Rural Health Centre ran zoom sessions for the students to get to know each other, the staff they’ll be working with, and the communities they will be going into, Ms White explained.

The great thing is that we are now seeing the program rolled out after two and half years of groundwork, said Ms White.

The partners behind the pilot placement program include the Far West Local Health District (FWLHD) Directorate of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Notre Dame Australia School of Nursing (Sydney), The University of Sydney, Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, and Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health (BHUDRH).

By increasing the quality and capacity of rural and remote clinical placements for regional and metropolitan health students, the hope is that this will lead to better health outcomes for our community.

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