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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Nursing ambitions for students in the bush

Nursing ambitions for students in the bush

Rural outreach program building a bridge into higher education.

A pilot education program to be run in three regional and remote high schools will help overcome the tyranny of distance and lack of opportunities for far-flung students.

The University of Wollongong (UOW) was recently awarded a National Priority Pool grant to run the Rural In2Uni pilot program, funded through the Department of Education 2016 Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).

Three schools will be selected for the pilot program in regional NSW and Victoria experiencing high levels of social and education disadvantage.

Brandon Nation, who has completed his first year of a Bachelor of Nursing degree at UOW Bega, knows first hand the value of being given the opportunity to see where higher education could lead.

He comes from Cann River in Victoria, a town in the forests of East Gippsland with a population of fewer than 200 hundred people and where about 50 students attend the Prep to Year 12 school, making it one of the smallest schools in Victoria.

“The town used to be in the logging industry but the last mill closed in June or July this year,” Brandon said.

“It’s now a ‘coffee stop’ town for tourists traveling from as far as Melbourne at times, to the Sapphire Coast for a holiday.

“Unless kids have a connection to the land and farming or they can get into a trade there’s not much to do there when they finish school.

“With no other social stimulation, recreation for young people has a high chance in heading down a path of drugs and alcohol, where, if nothing is done, it can quickly become a dangerous cycle from generation to generation.”

Many schools, like Cann River, and the communities that surround them, are achieving major improvements in student learning outcomes, but their distance from the major cities means students miss out on traditional schools outreach programs delivered by universities.

UOW Bega Campus Manager Samantha Avitaia said the Rural In2Uni Program will develop resources to allow the program to be delivered locally at minimal cost to the school.

“Many schools in regional and remote areas that have high numbers of disadvantaged students don’t have the resources and the time to cover the costs of travel and accommodation to send their students away to attend on-campus programs,” she said. The Rural In2Uni Program aims to change the focus of university outreach in the target areas, to empower schools to lead the program in partnership with a university. The project will identify and address the specific needs in each community to develop programs that are transferable to other schools with high numbers of disadvantaged students in regional and remote areas.It will involve university student mentors delivering a series of workshops at schools, online university familiarisation modules, campus visits by the school, co-enrolment and individual student pathway planning and advice. Ms Avitaia said this would lead to suitable models that can be expanded to other schools following the pilot program.“Some schools rarely have interaction with universities. That interaction seems to make the biggest difference in students’ outlook because it builds awareness and confidence.“Rural students need both disruptions to make them aware of, and bridges to help get them into university.”Brandon agreed with the need for awareness. He was fortunate to take part in a high school work experience program at Orbost Hospital that led to him choosing his current study path.“Many kids don’t have the experience of knowing someone who’s been to university or even what careers are available.“In Cann River we only have a nursing station. Without the work experience I wouldn’t have had a clue how a hospital works.”He aligned his subjects in years 11 and 12 to qualify for nursing and applied for early entry into UOW’s Bachelor of Nursing at Bega. “Bega was pretty close and when I was looking at the UOW website I saw all the performance data and it was a lot better than many of the Victorian universities,” he said.“I get to mix with a bunch of different people with different life experiences that I might otherwise never had anything to do with, so for me I still go to have the typical university experience.” He’s also benefited from the nursing simulation labs that were part of the $1.5 million Nursing Clinical Learning Facility, which opened in March this year (2016).“It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve been on two clinical placements and just seeing the improvement in someone’s health or rehabilitating a person, you can’t beat it.”In2Uni and similar programs are designed to support UOW’s efforts in social inclusion. Approximately one in three undergraduate students attending a UOW campus in Australia come from a regional or remote area and almost one in five come from a disadvantaged background.Rural In2Uni will be run through UOW Bega and Batemans Bay campuses as an extension of the highly successful In2Uni outreach programs that have been delivered in the Illawarra and surrounds for several years.In 2015, the program won the Society for the Provision of Education in Rural Australia - Australian Rural Education Award. Source

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