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Rebecca Broadbent has worked in a variety of clinical roles in different regional centres across Australia, however, it is her love for nursing education and students that has now landed her working as a nurse tutor.

“I’ve always had a love for supporting students, whether that’s providing clinical supervision to students on placement or supporting new graduates, so when there was an opportunity to be in this nurse tutor role, I was really interested,” Rebecca, who herself completed her Masters of Clinical Nursing in 2019, says.

However, rather than working face-to-face with students, Rebecca’s role, which commenced earlier this year in May, is facilitated by digital technology and involves supporting a growing number of students in regional NSW choosing to study closer to home.

Administered jointly by the Country Universities Centre (CUC) and Charles Sturt University (CSU), Rebecca provides free supplementary nurse tutoring for students who are living and studying away from traditional university campuses in regional NSW.

Her support is targeted at those studying CSU’s Bachelor of Nursing or Graduate Diploma of Midwifery at CUC facilities, as well as select other groups of CSU students participating in the university’s nursing program.

According to CSU, it is a role that focuses “on supporting students who are undertaking workplace learning”, but for Rebecca, it is also a position that helps keep her upbeat about her profession’s future.

“There’s something really refreshing [about] chatting with people that are keen, excited and working really hard to join your profession,” she says.

The majority of Rebecca’s work is online and phone consultation, increasing the ability of a regionally-based student to draw upon expert support.

“There’s a higher percentage of students that study online that are mature-age or career changers… it’s really about trying to have a flexible model so that they can be supported in their studies, encouraged along and that they’re not restricted from accessing tutoring positions because they live in a rural location or they are studying online.”

As a result, there are a variety of measures that Rebecca works towards. These include ensuring students complete their studies and their subsequent employment within the community; and consulting with students on how they perceive their improvement.

Given the fluid nature of the role, and different kind of supports that a student might need, identifying the day-to-day tasks of Rebecca’s role can be difficult, especially given her other nursing work.

It is driven mostly by communication, with students reaching out to Rebecca for assistance and mentoring, while at other times, she will contact the student cohort studying the Bachelor of Nursing degree to remind them that she is available for help.

“Not all students will seek the assistance of a nurse tutor, and also, it depends on what they are working on,” she says.

For example, with assignments like essays, she often plays a more direct role, reviewing work and providing tips on the clarity of expression. Yet, with something like an online exam, her advice is more confined to advising the student on how to understand best the content that they are engaging with.

Rebecca advises that any nurse or midwife thinking about working in higher education consider building skills within their workplaces by mentoring those on clinical placement or presenting in-services before shifting their focus.

“Meaningful education doesn’t have to be standing in front of a big room or with a certain title… build up your own skills and competence, and then if it’s something that does excite you, that you do enjoy doing, then pursuing different jobs or opportunities that do come up [is an option],” she says.

Despite Rebecca enjoying the role, it’s also one that has some challenges, especially as CUC plans to expand out of regional NSW, with new centres set to open in Queensland and Victoria in 2021.

Some of those challenges include internet speeds which can vary in different regional areas. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the delivery of required student items, requiring both students and tutors to be adaptable.

“You both need to have an attitude or a spirit of being flexible and wanting to build that relationship… so that it can be maintained [online]. You don’t have the luxury necessarily of having a lot of face-to-face time together,” she says, adding that if you’re an educator, “it’s really important to love what you do.”

Yet at other times, such as when she witnessed her own student’s excitement about joining the country’s nursing workforce at prospective student’s forum, there are obvious moments of satisfaction and reward.

“Hearing her speak so beautifully about her excitement and passion of coming to the nursing profession… reaffirmed the work that we are doing,” Rebecca says of the efforts of herself and her fellow CUC/CSU colleagues.

“We were making a difference to her study journey, and she’ll make a fabulous registered nurse one day.”

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