ANF Professional Officer Belinda Clark and ANF Undergraduate and Final Year Student Officer Abbey Kink met with Bendigo Health's Nursing and Midwifery Education Manager Dr Helen Aikman and Nurse Educator-Professional Development Programs Claire Pertzel to find out more and discovered an increasing number of public and private health services are realising the benefits of a graduate program for enrolled nurses.
Describing the impetus for Bendigo Health to provide an Enrolled Nurse Graduate Program, Nursing and Midwifery Education Manager Dr Helen Aikman explains she felt a "sense of inequity in the opportunities for registered nurses and midwives and enrolled nurses to access a graduate nurse year". Dr Aikman points to a wealth of literature indicating graduate programs help nurses and midwives consolidate their learning and develop their clinical skills. She reasons there is a significant imperative for enrolled nurses to be offered this opportunity as well. The limited clinical placement time offered within their course may be as little as nine weeks and the overall pace of their learning is accelerated compared to the three-year undergraduate degree for registered nurses.
Bendigo Health started providing an Enrolled Nurse Graduate Program in 2012 and has six graduates undertaking the 12-month program this year. Students enjoy three clinical rotations to areas including rehabilitation, medical (or psychiatry) and residential aged care. Students receive four orientation days and six structured study days that are timed to coincide with clinical rotations. The study day program includes general ward introduction and a strong clinical focus.
Critically, students of the program are well supported by a Graduate Year Co-ordinator, a Clinical Nurse Educator and a Nurse Preceptor who they are buddied with in a supernumerary capacity for three to five days at the start of each clinical rotation. Additionally, Dr Aikman identified the vital role that the Clinical Support Nurse plays in supporting all nurses and midwives in each ward and unit.
Enrolled nurse graduate Amberley Deane was so attracted by the opportunity to consolidate her learning that she relocated from the Northern Territory to participate in the Bendigo Health Enrolled Nurse Graduate Program. Having completed her Diploma of Nursing in Queensland, Ms Deane says "she would have felt a lot of pressure transitioning to practice without the support offered to her by the program". Amberley says the program is helping her to develop confidence and clinical skills and that she enjoys being part of a team of positive nursing role models at Bendigo Health.
Don't be afraid to ask questions if unsure" is Ms Deane's wise counsel to enrolled nurses. Similarly, in explaining how Bendigo Health fosters a safe, positive and exciting learning culture, Dr Aikman identifies that "teaching all graduates that integrity matters the most" is critically important to the education and support of all nurses and midwives.
Whilst Bendigo Health currently receives no additional government funding for their Enrolled Nurse Graduate Program the benefits of it are manifest. Bendigo Health Nurse Educator Claire Pertzel says the program provides a "variety of experiences, the chance to develop nursing skills, peer support and a greater sense of satisfaction". Similarly "doing a good job around recruiting to the program," reaps many rewards for the organisation in preventing the additional costs otherwise associated with the recruitment of nurses and midwives.
Despite the financial hurdles facing hospitals to provide an enrolled nurse graduate program without government funding, Dr Aikman encourages other hospitals embarking on this course to "Stick with it. It is morally right. Share your resources with other hospitals".
Since meeting with Bendigo Health, ANF has become aware that a number of other health care facilities provide a graduate program for enrolled nurses though the length and structure of these vary considerably. Facilities include Western District Health Service (WDHS) who have provided a 12-month enrolled nurse graduate program since 2008. WDHS Nurse Education Coordinator Christine McGennisken describes the Enrolled Nurse Graduate Program as a "carefully planned and integrated twelve-month educational program, designed to consolidate nursing skills and increase professional awareness, under the supervision and guidance of experienced and competent nurses". The Royal Melbourne Hospital offer a comprehensive 12-month enrolled nurse graduate program. Other facilities that provide a form of enrolled nurse graduate program include: St Vincent's and Mercy Private, Epworth Healthcare, Healthscope, Ramsay Healthcare and Cabrini Health who provide an ‘enrolled nurse novice program'.
Pictured from left to right: Bendigo Health Manager Nursing and Midwifery Education Dr Helen Aikman, enrolled nurse graduate and current participant of the program Amberley Deane, Bendigo Health Nurse Educator- Professional Development Programs Claire Pertzel.