Sarah Buckle
Sarah Buckle

Sarah Buckle

PDG Joe Scorer
Rural Nursing Scholarship 2023

University of Wollongong, NSW

Final Rural Placement – Shellharbour Acute Medical Unit
Post Grad Placement – South-East Regional Hospital (Bega)

Rural Nursing Scholarship Program

Why do I wish to do rural and remote training?

In rural New South Wales [NSW], people face more barriers accessing healthcare than those who reside in metropolitan areas. Oftentimes, there are larger geographical distances that people must travel for specialised healthcare, and there are fewer allied health professionals and doctors. Adding to the complexity, people who live in rural areas also experience higher rates of chronic disease, co-morbidities, and premature death that is largely preventable.

Furthermore, specific to my hometown in the Bega Valley, and other nearby rural towns, communities have been impacted by cumulative natural disasters including floods, devastating bushfires, drought, the Covid19 pandemic and even mice plagues. These events have placed a significant burden on the health and wellbeing within rural communities, and subsequently also on community and healthcare sectors. For these reasons, and many more, I have a passion and
drive to give back to my community, and to contribute to continued fostering of hope and resilience, which is why I commenced a Bachelor of Nursing degree with the University of Wollongong [UOW].

This current day, I am nearing graduation, and I am proud of my academic achievements.  To date, I have achieved distinction average grades with many high distinctions, I received academic awards for placing in the top 10 in four subjects across all UOW campuses, and I was offered the opportunity to complete an honours year. I have also been offered, and have accepted a new graduate Registered Nurse position at South-East Regional Hospital in the Bega Valley NSW – my rural hometown.

My next goal, following completion of my new graduate year, is to complete a graduate certificate in mental health nursing, then my goal is to complete a mental health nurse practitioner masters. By expanding my scope of practice, I believe I will be well-positioned to contribute to improved health and well-being for individuals and families within my local and surrounding rural communities. I am confident also, that by becoming a mental health nurse practitioner, I will be
better able to support my nursing colleagues, doctors and patients, and contribute to improving access to specialised and timely healthcare for rural Australians.

If I were awarded this very generous scholarship, the funds would be a significant financial support throughout my new graduate year and would also help to pay for my continuing nurse practitioner education. I strive for excellence always, and in return if I were to receive this scholarship, I will lead best-practice, and I will commit to continued and loyal engagement with Australian Rotary Health as we embark together, as a partnership, to improve access to vital healthcare and the health and wellbeing of individuals, and populations in our rural communities.

Final (University) Rural Report

The day finally came – I made it! On the 23/01/2023, alongside 14 other Nursing students from the Bega Valley, I graduated from a Bachelor of Nursing with distinction! It is such a privilege that I have been able to attend university right here in Bega, my little regional town with a population of just over 5000 people. Nestled in the beautiful Bega Valley on the NSW South Coast, in a town famous for its cheese, is our very own University of Wollongong campus. This meant I did not have to uproot my family, and home, to attend university – and also meant I was never alone.

My final 3rd year student clinical placement for example, required me to travel away from home to Shellharbour, where I worked in an acute medical assessment unit for 5 weeks, and  I also travelled to Campbelltown for placement. These mandatory placements, are unpaid yet are vital to our learning.  The opportunity to consolidate our clinical skills, and apply it in real-world settings, is essential to becoming safe healthcare professionals. Under direct supervision of experienced Registered Nurses, clinical facilitators and Managers, it is a time where we work within multidisciplinary teams, begin to care for patients/consumers, and get a sense of what is expected, and what it takes to become the best nurses we can be.

The downside, is being away from home, financial difficulties, isolation, steep learning curves, and challenging adjustments to different working environments, teams, specialties and sleeping quarters! Just driving on the roads in the big smoke, I found especially daunting, because in my town, I rarely have to merge in traffic! For students from rural/regional areas, or for those whose personal circumstances pose unique challenges – it can be difficult to succeed, which is why a network of support is vital. My husband for example, worked long hours, and cared for our son who was also very patient, supportive, and resilient, at times when he was experiencing challenges of his own.  Our parents, and siblings, pitched in with school runs, lunches, and child minding – but money was tight. On a single wage we had to cover costs of accommodation, fuel, and food during placement periods – and the bills kept rolling in. A significant support here was generous scholarships I received from community foundations including the Bega Rotary, the Mumbulla Foundation, HETI Connect, and the Destination Australia Scholarship which is available for rural/regional nursing applicants only. The funds helped me to purchase student nursing uniforms, a stethoscope, textbooks, and eliminated the need for me to work whilst I studied full-time. I also had the support of extended family, who welcomed me into their homes, sat, and laughed with me when I needed it most. Family, friends, the university, healthcare teams, mentors, community foundations and study colleagues, believed in me, and encouraged me, and as a result I made it, and am now a Registered Nurse.

The next step, is my new graduate year as Registered Nurse. NSW Health (SNSWLHD) has accepted me into their new graduate program, where I have been warmly welcomed, and Australian Rotary Health, a major funding body for mental health research, and supporter of rural/regional nurses – has awarded me the PDG Scorer Rural Nursing Scholarship, which aims to support new graduate retention in rural/regional areas. This scholarship has taken pressure off my family, and will be put toward the cost of a post graduate certificate in mental health nursing. So thank you Australian Rotary Health, NSW Health, and my family, friends and community for your unwavering support. I will pay it forward, by contributing to improved health, wellbeing, and quality of healthcare in our local rural/regional community. Many thanks – another update soon Sarah.

Post Grad Rural Placement Report

There is certainly no wasted time in the New Graduate year for Registered Nurses – my first 6 month rotation in the SERH MHIU is now complete and I have now commenced my second rotation at Pambula District Hospital!

In short, my time in the MHIU has been an experience.  I feel that my time management and documentation has improved.  It was a good feeling to have a sense of routine after so long shifting between wards and hospitals when I was a student nurse, and the pay cheques have enabled my family and I to commence some long-awaited home projects.  Over the six months, I have also developed a sense of my nursing style, and have come to realise that I am detail oriented, I love numbers, pathophysiology and critical thinking – which has led me to change my nursing pathway.

So now rather than pursuing a career in mental health nursing, in the short term, I have decided to pursue a medical/surgical pathway with aim to further develop my clinical skills, and nursing practice.  In the longer term, I am a leaf in the wind!  I would like to complete a post-graduate certificate in acute care nursing, and from there, I will likely begin to pursue one of my many interests.  The beauty of the nursing profession is that the scope of possibility is huge.  There is anything from working with children and babies, to older persons, to working in the operating theatres, ED, ICU, renal, community health, oncology, hospital in the home, medical/surgical, sub-acute rehabilitation unit and the list goes on.

Furthermore, as Registered Nurses we can also pursue more specific interests.  If we have an interest in post-operative care for example, we can immerse ourselves in as much training and education related to post-operative care as we should wish to.  The opportunities are endless. I have particular interests in cardiovascular pathophysiology (the heart), acute respiratory care, nursing care of older persons, renal, and ICU, so at this time I will keep learning and growing, and who knows where I will end up.

Importantly also, I am thankful for this scholarship from Australian Rotary Health because it reminds me, throughout the challenges that I face, that I have support, I have an organisation vouching for me, and backing me to get through this first year, and that has made a world of difference for me – so thank you!

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