I joined the Faculty of Health at the University of Canberra in March 2009. Since then I have had the great good fortune to work with remarkable colleagues each day. I have been saving up a post to write about Nursing and Midwifery in the Faculty … a remarkable group of people who have taught me enormous lessons about caring and service.
My links with and interest in nursing and midwifery training date back to my PhD days at the Institute for Educational Development at the University of Surrey in the 1980s. Ann Wickenden helped me understand the transformational opportunities available in the education and training of nurses and midwives. Her study reported on the education of basic general nurses whilst they were working in the clinical setting. “Set against a system where the position of the student is essentially that of an apprentice, previous studies have demonstrated that theory is often divorced from practice and any teaching which does take place is frequently sparse and erratic.” When I read Ann Oakley’s chapter (Interviewing women, a contradiction in terms) in Helen Robert’s book on Doing Feminist Research (1981) I realised how much I had to learn about ethnographic enquiry and the very special bonds developed by carers, mothers and babies in maternity settings.
The nursing curriculum at the University of Canberra fosters the development of critically reflective registered nurses. Staff use an evidence-based model of clinical placements, the Clinical Education Units. They focus on integration with community and industry connections for student learning, as well as working with the nursing community in forms of research and development. Their vision is for “our nursing graduates to be critically thinking nurses who challenge the status quo, clearly articulate their concerns, and use evidence to develop effective practice solutions”.
Midwifery is viewed as “relational, practical work between childbearing women and midwives which is based on specific knowledge, skills and attitudes”. The midwifery curriculum is student centred, process oriented and competency based, designed to meet the standards of a practice based discipline. The midwifery staff’s vision is that our future midwives “will be kind useful midwives”.
There are ten full time staff members in Nursing and three in Midwifery. These smaller numbers “allow for strong relationships and direct support which is not possible at larger universities. We see students to support their learning, give feedback on assignments or clinical practice, offer course advice and pastoral care, or just to talk together about the work we love.”
What I admire so much about the staff in Nursing and Midwifery is that their practice delivers practitioners who love their profession and embody the kindness and care essential for all our flourishing. They would be a remarkable group in any setting. At the University I think they set a gold standard of performance to which many of us should aspire.
Meet some of them here: