Country nursing skills boosted by online learning

Thursday, 13 December 2001

THE country practice is set to be revolutionised thanks to new, hi-tech teaching methods for Adelaide University nursing students.

The first students to make use of the new methods -- involving online learning and videoconferencing -- will graduate at Adelaide University this Friday (December 14).

For many of them, the graduation will be the first time they have set foot on the University's campus. Most of the students are scattered across country South Australia, including Mount Gambier, Millicent, Port Pirie, Port Augusta, and also one student from Perth.

The students, who otherwise would have been disadvantaged in rural areas, have been able to overcome the "tyranny of distance" says Deputy Head of the Department Dr Helen McCutcheon. They can now apply their expertise in country hospitals that are in desperate need of highly skilled nurses.

The 12 students have all completed their studies for the Graduate Diploma in Nursing Science (High Dependency Nursing).

High-dependency nursing requires the care of critical patients without the use of hi-tech equipment normally found in large metropolitan hospitals. There is a great shortage of skills in this area in rural Australia.

"The access to training for rural-based nurses is one of the main reasons why there is such a shortage of skills," says clinical lecturer (High Dependency) Ms Robyn Clark.

"In the past, nurses based in rural areas have been disadvantaged because they simply don't have a university in their backyard. We've had to overcome the challenges of teaching and learning by distance, and this has been greatly assisted by the new online learning project at Adelaide University and teleconferencing of the tutorials."

A pilot project to provide online course material was launched at Adelaide University this year, and will be offered to all students for all academic programs in 2002. The nursing students were among the first to trial Adelaide's new online teaching and learning system.

"The fact that the students now have the skills and knowledge to access information from the World Wide Web has had a direct impact on their practice," Ms Clark says.

"One online tool that impacted on their skills and knowledge was the discussion board. For the first time they were able to openly discuss common issues and work. This created a 'virtual tutorial' and reduced the feeling of studying in isolation. It also allowed city and country nurses to exchange ideas and at times debate inequalities of care," she says.

Feedback from the students involved in this year's course has been so strong that the department is expecting to double its enrolments for 2002.


The nursing students will graduate at 10 am on Friday, December 14. This is the very first of the December graduation ceremonies for Adelaide University for 2001.

In all, more than 2300 students are attending nine graduation ceremonies held from December 14-20.


Contact Details

Dr Helen McCutcheon
Senior Lecturer, Deputy Head
Department of Clinical Nursing
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 3595

Ms Robyn Clark
Business: +61 8 8313 3595