SIT students embrace new opportunity in rural nursing
Publish Date: Wednesday, 24 April 2024
SIT students embrace new opportunity in rural nursing
SIT third year Nursing students, Caitlin Sullivan (right) and Shannon Brooking, recently seized a new opportunity to participate in a five-week rural Nursing programme on the West Coast, where they developed their interpersonal skills with other health sector students in a clinical setting.
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SIT | Te Pūkenga year 3 Nursing students, Shannon Brooking and Caitlin Sullivan have recently completed a successful five-week programme on the West Coast, in a new opportunity to experience rural nursing.

A joint initiative between the University of Otago and Te Whatu Ora - Health NZ, the West Coast Interprofessional Education Programme (IPE) is based in Greymouth, and began in 2021. SIT Acting Programme Manager for Bachelor of Nursing Year 3, Malinda Hill, said this is the first year SIT Nursing students have been invited to participate. The selection criteria was for high-performing students (at the end of Year 2) who already had an interest in rural placement. “We offered the opportunity to three students and two accepted,” Mrs Hill said. The programme ran from the end of February to early April.   

The programme’s emphasis on providing opportunities for students to work collaboratively with and learn from other vocations, is to further their professional and personal development. Students are usually in their final year and come from a variety of tertiary institutions, covering various fields, including Dental, Dietetics, Medical, Midwifery, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Oral Health, Paramedicine, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy and Speech Language Therapy.

Miss Sullivan participated in the programme because she’s particularly interested in rural health, “I live rurally myself”, and she’d also spent time on the West Coast previously. “There are more barriers to health care there due to remoteness and other factors,” she explained. Her interest was in learning about how health care was managed in that environment. “...they’re not close to any major hospitals. I wanted to experience firsthand what skills they need for providing health care, given the limitations in their remote communities.”  

Describing the five-week programme as “challenging but eye-opening as well”, Miss Sullivan said “we were so busy we didn’t get time to miss home”. Placed with a Māori health provider, she visited people in their homes in isolated places, often with conditions that required significant management. “It was challenging but rewarding at the same time.” An unexpected highlight was engaging with children by carrying out Well Child checks with Tamariki Ora – Plunket. “I was adamant I wasn’t going to be a paediatric nurse, but I loved it,” she admitted, adding the exposure has made her think twice. “I could change career options in the future,” she said, acknowledging the programme has broadened her horizons. “There are so many skills that I think I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t gone.”

Similarly, Miss Brooking called the programme experience “amazing! I was very glad to be selected and that I took the opportunity to go.” She found the most fulfilling aspect of the programme was the emphasis on developing interprofessional working opportunities with health students from other fields.

“The fact that we could work with other health professionals – physios, oral health students, a dietician ... working with them on group projects was beneficial as well. I wouldn’t have gained experience with them otherwise. It was very valuable to be able to do that.” 

After going out on their individual placements each day, the students would return and gather for an informal debrief. “Talking to each other about how our day had gone and supporting each other helped us share our new successes.” Through this support, students were encouraged to apply new skills to practise. Miss Brooking emphasised this was a necessary component of their learning. “As there was much to learn, it was great to see,” she said. Her other positives included the rural and Māori health experiences she gained while there. “I found those really important.” 

Mrs Hill kept in touch with the students during their placement, and believed they had returned with increased clinical knowledge due to their clinical experience. “They’ve looked at social and economic determinants, engaged in quite a lot of creative thinking, and they also had to complete case studies,” she explained. It was apparent that the students had developed their interpersonal skills in professionalism, communication and collaboration. “I was really impressed with their professionalism.”  

Mrs Hill said SIT were committed to continuing their involvement, as long as the programme could be incorporated around the students’ teaching blocks throughout the academic year. “It’s a great opportunity for students to be exposed to, and understand more about rural health care.”