09 March 2016

nursing facilitiesUniSA’s new state-of-the art Learning Centre to be officially opened in Mt Gambier in April represents a huge investment in nursing education for regional South Australia.

Thanks to a new $12.5 million world-class specialist experiential learning facility, regional nursing students are now able to access real-life simulation resources of the same quality as their metropolitan counterparts.

UniSA’s Head of School of Nursing and Midwifery, Professor Carol Grech, says having the opportunity to study nursing and midwifery in regional locations is an essential component of maintaining a strong health workforce in country areas.

“Nurses play a significant role enhancing the quality of life for individuals across the whole of their lifespan and UniSA’s Bachelor of Nursing program is preparing nurses to be able to meet healthcare delivery requirements today and into the future,” Prof Grech says.

“School leavers coming into the Bachelor of Nursing or Bachelor of Midwifery, can stay in their local community and within their well-established support networks while having the same learning experience and outcomes as those studying at a metropolitan campus.

“Similarly, many mature-age learners coming into our programs are well established in Mount Gambier and the surrounding regions and have family and work related responsibilities that can restrict their ability to access higher degree studies in the city.

“Being able to stay local is an enabler for them to gain nursing and midwifery qualifications and then take up positions in local hospitals and health services.”

The new facilities offer not only contemporary learning spaces for the delivery of specialised nursing theory, but include a state-of-the-art simulated hospital and health service that prepares undergraduate students for clinical placements. It also supports the professional development of registered nurses and midwives employed in local health services. 

“Through the use of advanced digital technologies in our simulated Horizon Hospital and Health Service facility our students engage in real-life experiences every time they walk in the door,” Prof Grech says.

“The School of Nursing and Midwifery has created a web-based online learning resource, a kind of simulated city called the City of Horizon. It replicates a typical Australian regional centre with a population of about 30,000 residents.

“Images, audio and video resources depict a group of city residents who share their life histories and health conditions with our students who then get to know these residents as individuals as they would in real world practice situations.

“Connecting with City of Horizon ‘residents’, expands our students’ understanding, moving them from a purely biomedical view of illness, injury and medical treatment to enable wide-ranging exploration of nursing or midwifery care, to learn how to deliver care with compassion and kindness - across both acute and community based settings.

"The Mount Gambier Horizon Hospital and Health Service has been purpose built to replicate an actual functioning hospital and health service staffed by practicing clinicians where students are rostered onto ‘shifts’ and allocated to care for residents of the simulated city that they have come to know through their theory courses.

“Our students actually ‘nurse’ high-tech mannequins in the simulated hospital which are  programed to do a range of activities such as speak, respond to commands, show changes in their vital signs (heart and breathing rate) – and even give birth. 

“Students respond to the situations they are encountering under the supervision of the registered nurse or midwife just as they would in a real world setting and we also have real people who volunteer to be patients so that students are exposed to a broad range of scenarios.

“This gives them an authentic clinical experience in a safe and controlled setting before they go out on actual placements in a hospital or health venue. “

Currently UniSA’s Mount Gambier campus accepts about 30 students a year into the Bachelor of Nursing, however the new Learning Centre also allows for campus workshops for midwifery students and for students to study nursing and midwifery programs in flexible modes - part-time enrolment and blended learning approaches.

Third year nursing student, Rachel Stephens, lives in Casterton  just over the Victorian border approximately 45 minutes from Mount Gambier and is very grateful for the opportunity to study close to home and with some degree of flexibility.

Rachel started first year in Adelaide but transferred to Mount Gambier after struggling to live and study so far away from home.

“Being able to study in Mount Gambier makes things so much easier for me and to be able to study in such a wonderful facility is quite overwhelming,” Rachel says.

“I have had two sessions in the simulated Horizon Hospital and Health Service and they were great because it is like a real ward.

“It is wonderful how much has been invested into our practical experience.

“Being a regional centre, we are lucky with the facilities we have and I would love to stay around the area and nurse so am working towards securing a graduate positon as close to home as possible.”

Hannah Walshaw, 23, lives in Port MacDonnell 25 km south east of Mount Gambier and is also studying her third year of nursing.

"I studied Psychology in Adelaide but really needed to come home to help my partner with his business,” Hannah says.

“I don’t have the self-motivation to study externally so being so close to home and part of such a close-knit educational community is perfect for me.

“I have been fortunate enough to use the new facilities a couple of times and can’t believe how up to date and state of the art they are and now I feel totally prepared about going out on placements.

"We have everything is as it would be in a metropolitan hospital so I feel confident training to hopefully become a registered nurse and work for Country Health SA.”

 Media contact: Katrina McLachlan office +61 883020961 mob 0414972537 email katrina.mclachlan@unisa.edu.au

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