Transition to remote area nursing – orientating nurses new to remote and indigenous health.
Given the unique context, and the inseparable work and living conditions in which remote area practitioners provide health care services, it is of utmost importance that nurses new to remote health practice are well prepared.
In a recent study, it was identified that 30 per cent of all registered nurses in very remote Australia have not received any orientation for their current position. Of those who did receive orientation, more than half thought their orientation was inadequate.
Adequately preparing practitioners for their role has been linked to improved retention. In acknowledgement of this need, The Centre for Remote Health and Northern Territory Department of Health (formerly Department of Health and Families) partnered to pilot the Transition to Remote Area Nursing program over the two year period of 2009 – 2010.
This program aims to provide nurses new to remote health with the skills and knowledge required to become effective members of remote primary health care teams. It was developed to improve orientation and runs alongside the Department’s own mandatory induction and pathways to professional practice program.
The Transition to Remote Area Nursing program is a six month course leading to enrolment and completion of a postgraduate degree within a 12 – 18 month period. It consists of a mixture of intensive face-to-face workshops and on line learning.
The course provides students with clinical and public health skills as well as an understanding of the context of remote health including the environmental and social factors underpinning current poor health status of remote and Indigenous Australians. Students who successfully complete the entire program are eligible for credit towards 50 per cent of the Graduate Certificate in Remote Health practice.
The evaluation of the pilot project revealed identified that the Transition to Remote Area Nursing Program provided a cost effective, and resource efficient way of orientating new nursing staff to the specific skills and knowledge required of a nurse working in isolated, remote and Indigenous primary health care centres.
It has provided the Department with a mechanism to ensure preparedness and standardise competency levels of practitioners entering remote health workforce with a variety of prior knowledge and skills. Sixty per cent of participants in the program have subsequently enrolled in the Flinders University Remote Health Practice award courses (Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma or Master of Remote Health Practice).
Of those participants who enrolled, 96.5 per cent completed the degree. In the context of an average yearly turnover of 59 per cent this program has therefore demonstrated a significant contribution to improving workforce retention. The program will now be extended to other remote health professionals and other health services across Australia.
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