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Backing the next generation of rural nurses
'There is something special about investing in someone within your community – never underestimate the power that a little support has on a university student.'

Abby Burge grew up between the family property north-east of Allora and the family home on the outskirts of Toowoomba. With three brothers, Abby concedes she was no stranger to farm accidents and the sight of blood.

“Whether this involved one brother losing half of his finger in a combine harvester, another one falling off the back of a truck and slicing his side open with a piece of aluminium or quadbike accident – rather than being grossed out by the blood, I was always one of the first ones to rush to see what was going on and how I could help in any way,” she said.

With life lessons, combined with stories shared by both of her grandmothers who worked as nurses, Abby’s interest in a nursing career was more than inevitable.

Abby plans to study her Masters upon competition of her Bachelor degree, with a major in rural and remote nursing, and midwifery.

“There is a severe lack of nursing and healthcare staff out west, especially in the times we are currently facing with COVID-19,” Abby said.

“The rural and remote healthcare system is being placed under increasing pressure with sometimes incomprehensible wait times for rural patients. This troubles me, and while I am only one person, if I can encourage others to pursue a rural and remote career as well, I believe we can start to make a positive change.

“The opportunities are endless in the rural and remote setting, with a larger area to cover with less staff than city nursing, and you get to witness and be involved in a wider variety of scenarios that constantly challenge and grow your skillset.

“This fills me with a sense of anticipation of the skills that I would be able to grow and then use to provide quality care in any situation.”

It’s that level of passion that deemed Abby Burge a worthy recipient of the 2021 Felicity Purcell Nursing Bursary. Felicity was a University of Southern Queensland nursing graduate who was widely respected in her field. In 2008, Felicity sadly lost her battle to breast cancer and died at only 33 years of age. The bursary was first awarded in 2010 through efforts of the Purcell family and friends and they continue their support today.

The bursary promotes the best traditions of nursing’s ethos of care for others, as embodied by Felicity and provides financial assistance to a nursing student who, like Felicity, come from a rural or remote background.

Felicity’s brother, Damian, describes the bursary as ‘an incredibly special thing.’

“We’re a rural family and we know how important it is for young people to come through and get an opportunity they may not have been afforded without that little bit of extra help,” he said.

“Abby told us she would love to one day work for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, so it means a lot to our family that she’s so focused on nursing in rural areas long term. Above all we’re just so honoured that something in Felicity’s name continues to serve the community.”

For the first time in 2022, the Eagers Automotive Foundation will also be financially supporting the Felicity Purcell Nursing Bursary.

Chairman of the Foundation, Bob Kendall, said it’s been a serendipitous and fulfilling process.

“At the beginning of each year the Foundation reaches out to our dealerships around Australia for suggestions on where we might best direct funds to charitable causes, and we like to know if there’s something close to their hearts,” he said

“It’s quite special to support a staff member and the communities they serve. We take immense pleasure in knowing this is a rural focused bursary. That’s especially important to us with so many of our dealerships in rural and regional areas.

“It’s still a hard slog for many families to support tertiary studies, so it feels good to play a small part in supporting rural students continue university study.”