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UniSQ nursing program revolutionises rural learning

A nurse standing in a hospital room with a stethoscope.
Ms Bain graduated from the University of Southern Queensland last month and is now working as a registered nurse at the Charleville Hospital.

Living on a cattle station in Cheepie, a small town eight hours from the nearest university campus, you could be forgiven for feeling isolated while studying to be a nurse.

But that was never the case for Bianca Bain, thanks to a program that brings university education to the bush.

Launched in semester 1, 2022, the University of Southern Queensland-led innovation is growing the pipeline of South West Queensland talent equipped for careers in healthcare.

Delivered in partnership between UniSQ, South West Hospital and Health Service and Southern Queensland Rural Health (SQRH), the program allows students to study a Bachelor of Nursing at Charleville's SQRH Clinical Training Facility and connect with other students in their cohort.

“Having a study space here at Charleville created a more convenient way to complete my studies and was an amazing help over my two years of study,” Ms Bain said.

“Being able to learn with a small group of fellow students and not study in isolation meant we got to know each other well, formed a great bond, and became comfortable working together.

“It was encouraging to see this facility reaching rural areas, making it easier for students to access equipment, tools and academic support.”

In addition to being able to stay in her hometown, Ms Bain didn’t have to worry about the cost of attending a residential school.

“Without the cohort, I would have had to travel 1400km return and take a week off work for residential schools,” she said.

Growing up, Ms Bain’s mother was a registered nurse and midwife.

“My mother had a huge range of knowledge, and after years of hearing her stories and learning more about the profession, I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.

Ms Bain graduated from the University of Southern Queensland last month and is now working as a registered nurse at the Charleville Hospital.

“I have loved working in Charleville. There’s a great team at the hospital, and being a rural hospital, there’s more of a personal side to how things are done,” she said.

Ms Bain, Phillipa Wallace, Em Hall, Shauna Mckinsley, Aly Fitzsimmons and Katie Lark were the first students to complete the program and become registered nurses.

Their achievements were recognised during a recent celebration event at Charleville.

The event was attended by local health officials, community groups, school representatives and Murweh Shire Council Mayor, Cr Shaun Radnedge.

The keynote speakers were Dr Ruth Stewart, National Rural Health Commissioner, and Dr Shelley Nowlan, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer for Queensland Health and Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner.

“It was a great chance for not just the University but the entire community to celebrate these students’ hard work,” UniSQ nursing lecturer and Charleville coordinator Jessie Elliott said.

“Since their first residential school, I have watched them grow and become registered nurses in their communities. I am proud of their achievement.

“The clinical staff at South West Hospital and Health Service, clinical facilitators, educators and placement officers; many people have been part of these students’ journey.”

While healthcare workers in the cities are being offered cash incentives to move to fill gaping holes in the regional health workforce, Ms Elliott said UniSQ was expanding and improving its learning environment and practical experiences for nursing students living in rural and remote settings.

“Charleville has seen the impact this program has made in their community, and we hope it will inspire many others to study as well,” Ms Elliott said.

“The University of Southern Queensland’s vision is to provide accessible and equitable higher education opportunities that can help create a level playing field for all students, regardless of where they live or the background from which they come.

“We’re committed to providing a supportive environment where students in the bush can live, study, and work locally.”

Learn more about the University of Southern Queensland’s nursing program.