Australia’s smallest state recently played host to a delegation of the deans of Denmark’s 20 nursing schools who visited Tasmania in May at the invitation of Associate Professor Denise Fassett, the new head of the University of Tasmania’s (UTAS) School of Nursing & Midwifery.
The Danes spent two days in Launceston visiting the School of Nursing & Midwifery and the Launceston General Hospital before signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the UTAS vice-chancellor Professor Daryl Le Grew.
Fassett says the relationship between Tasmania and Denmark developed over the past 12 months since she visited Copenhagen and Aarhus at the invitation of Professor Inger-Margrethe Jensen, Dean of the School of Nursing, Silkeborg in August 2005. The Danish Universities had been looking to develop partnerships in Australia, and after the wedding of Tasmanian Mary Donaldson to the Danish Crown Prince Frederik, Tasmania seemed the obvious place!
The MOU will enable a student, academic and registered nurse exchange program between the universities, and possible collaborative research and scholarship opportunities. Fasset says it will provide opportunities for student nurses to study for a semester in Denmark, and for Danish students to experience Tasmanian nursing approaches.
“The role of the RN is Scandinavia is different from here,” she says. “Their RN is a more advanced professional, generally more involved with patient management and decision-making as part of a multi-disciplinary team. Australian RNs have their own particular strengths: “greater communication and interaction with patients, and good clinical expertise in specialty areas. Australian nurses are very highly regarded overseas.”
The obvious career development from a clinical specialty is the nurse practitioner role. Tasmania is following other states and currently the Nurses Board, headed by Moira Laverty and chaired by Fassett, the ANF under Neroli Ellis, and the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) through senior policy officer (Nurse Practitioner Scoping Project) Annette Wilson Sturm and principal nurse advisor Fiona Stoker, are examining this option.
Rural beauty: St Mary’s Rural Health Teaching site, one of 12 developed by the University of Tasmania
The Department of Health & Human Services is looking at four possible pilot schemes – rural health (important in a state with lots of countryside between population centres); mental health; women’s and children’s health and sexual health; and emergency medicine.
Laverty, who chairs the mental health scoping team, says one of the benefits of working in a small state is that officials from the major health organisations know each other and are able to meet and communicate more easily and share common understandings. While the nurse practitioner project is still at the scoping stage, she says there is considerable interest from suitably qualified RNs, and the mental health and rural health pilots will probably start within the next few months.
The University of Tasmania Rural Health Department recently opened its 12th Rural Health Teaching Site at Nubeena on the state’s east coast. These multi-purpose health centres are used as teaching sites for student medical staff and nurses undertaking placements in the area, providing them with accommodation and IT facilities.
“A positive rural placement experience as a student provides a strong incentive to consider working and living in a rural community as a graduate,” says Professor Gail Hart, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning).
While newly graduated nurses often leave Tasmania for work and study interstate or overseas, Fassett says many return to contribute their expertise to their home state. She is one of the mid-stage career nurses from other states and countries who are making a lifestyle choice to move to Tasmania.
UTAS Associate Professor Denise Fassett
“You can choose a rural or a coastal lifestyle but still be close to everything. It’s a slower pace of life but the cities are vibrant and you can be close to the natural world in a spectacularly beautiful location. The climate is temperate. Cold nights and mornings but days full of sunshine. People enjoy walking. At the weekend, you can go up the mountain and walk through the snow. It’s a wonderful place to bring up a family!”