June 2013

Accessible nursing education for remote students

A new e-learning hospital, designed specially for nursing students living in remote communities of Western Australia, will help to boost the number of Aboriginal graduate nurses and improve health outcomes for their communities, says Good Samaritan Sister Jennifer Farrell.

The Maryanne Martin e-Learning Hospital was developed by the University of Notre Dame’s School of Nursing and Midwifery (Broome Campus) in collaboration with eLearn Australia, an independent e-learning provider.

Jennifer, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, and Co-ordinator of the Diploma of Nursing program, has been a key member of this innovative project. She described the e-learning hospital as an exciting development for students and staff of the Broome Campus.

“It was established to meet the needs of the students in the Kimberley and to help students to be able to stay in their communities and not have to move to Broome to attend the course,” she said.

The Maryanne Martin e-Learning Hospital provides students with an authentic virtual hospital environment. Using an interactive internet-based toolbox, students are led through patient case studies that help them to understand the theory behind the practice they are learning, explained Jennifer.

“In Australia we have smaller toolboxes that have been created, but at this point, this is the largest toolbox of its kind,” she said.

Students also travel to the Broome Campus for clinical skills sessions and assessment during a ‘block week’ each semester – a period where students can apply their knowledge of nursing theory in a practical environment.

Being an authentic e-learning program, students can access the Maryanne Martin Hospital 24-hours a day, allowing those who may be juggling additional study and family commitments to work at their own pace. Significantly, in a region where broadband internet access is very sketchy or non-existent, a ‘dial-up’ internet connection is all that is required.

Jennifer said the hospital provides students with a comprehensive nurse-training experience, complete with evidence-based practice, online resources and links, workbooks, dynamic interaction and assessments. This is in addition to receiving first-hand knowledge using a web- based classroom two mornings a week provided by academics on the Broome Campus.

Assistant Dean of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Sally Clark, said the e-learning hospital will provide an alternative pathway for Aboriginal health workers to enhance their skills and knowledge.

Named in honour of the first Aboriginal registered nurse and midwife in the Kimberley region, the Maryanne Martin e-Learning Hospital was officially launched on May 13. Jennifer said it was a past group of Diploma of Nursing students who suggested that the hospital be named after Maryanne.

“Maryanne is an extraordinary woman” who “has made a significant contribution to Aboriginal health care in the Kimberley”, said Jennifer.

But Maryanne will not only be lending her name to the project. She has been appointed Director of Nursing for the hospital, and in that capacity, will also offer cultural sessions with the nursing students.

For Jennifer, the launch of the e-learning hospital was a significant milestone and an opportunity to acknowledge all those involved in its development. A strong advocate of providing accessible education and healthcare opportunities for all people living in remote communities, she is especially mindful of people in Aboriginal communities.

“I’ve always had a deep passion for working with Indigenous people and I suppose that’s where I see myself working in Broome, is working with Indigenous people to bring about a change for them, or helping them to create a change for themselves… that’s where I feel my heart is,” she said.

“If we had more Aboriginal nurses, we would hopefully be closing the gap for health for Aboriginal people.”

The Good Oil

‘The Good Oil’, the free, monthly e-journal of the Good Samaritan Sisters, publishes news, feature and opinion articles and reflective content which aims to nourish the spirit, stimulate thinking and encourage reflection and dialogue about contemporary issues from a Good Samaritan perspective.

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