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For Sophie Rutter, the President of the Melbourne University Nursing Students’ Society (MUNSS), helps ensure that tomorrow’s nurses retain close contact with the university’s teaching faculty.

“We are so much more involved with the faculty than other student societies that I’ve known,” Sophie, having previously been a member of another student society during earlier tertiary learning, explains.

“We have a meeting with the course coordinator every month, as the committee; we’re constantly giving out surveys to students… we are so much more involved with the academic side of it than I was expecting [when I joined],” says Sophie who is a second-year Masters of Nursing Science student at the University.

More importantly, Sophie says that a nursing student body supports and unifies students with a shared interest, beyond friendship groups and cliques, into a body that is both “non-exclusive” and “non-discriminatory”.

“We’re just a neutral body where people all know that we’re all doing the same course and we’re facing the same challenges,” she says.

“We’re a great first point of contact when students ask us for advice… we’re someone to go to, rather than always having to ask your course coordinator questions that you might think are stupid questions.”

The commitment to inclusivity for all of its students can be seen in the organisation’s long-term interests, its recent work, and its future aims for 2022.

Before the emergence of COVID-19, fundraising was a key part of the society’s engagement with the cohort, providing support to those struggling financially and those undertaking overseas placements in places such as Nepal and Fiji.

“You can’t work while you’re on placement,” she explains, noting that this service was a key mechanism that the organisation used to support its cohort.

“I was told by the past president that MUNSS used to be really ambitious in the way that they could financially support students that needed it.”

However, if COVID has necessitated a shift in the organisation’s goals, it hasn’t stopped it from making a tangible impact.

Work by MUNSS’ Educational Officer with the staff in the nursing faculty has helped ensure that content focused on nursing for members of the LGBTQ community features in the new Masters of Nursing Science curriculum, introduced by the University for this coming year’s cohort.

“A lot of what we’ve told them about wanting more LGBTQ health in the course, they’ve already taken on,” Sophie, who was previously the first-year representative on the MUNSS committee, says.

Adding that monitoring this and other curriculum changes will be a key part of student society’s 2022 activities, she suggests that the differences in coverage of sexually diverse healthcare are already tangible from the lesson descriptions.

“You can see the topics of each week… It’s mentioned – I mean, it wasn’t even mentioned in our [iterations of the] courses.”

Additionally, MUNSS aims to embrace inclusivity by expanding its focus to all nursing students at the university. Having previously only supported graduate students doing the Nursing Science masters, it is now aiming to include more experienced nurses doing other Melbourne University nursing courses in its membership.

The benefits of including experienced nurses who are currently studying alongside graduate students studying to enter the workforce through the Nursing Science Masters are obvious, Sophie says.

“We’d be gaining so much real-world experience and help, support, advice — all that sort of stuff… If they were keen, they could even talk to us at the Grad Year Information Nights, even just coming to social events like the pub night [with] the informal conversations that go on there.”

Sophie also notes that practising nurses taking on the Advanced Nursing Degrees at Melbourne University face their own share of challenges as students and that MUNSS could and should also offer support through their connections.

“A lot of the nurses that are coming back to do their advanced degrees would love to have some support and connection to faculty as well… We in no way should be exclusive to just entry-to-practice nurses.”

Nevertheless, while the goals for the organisation are ambitious in 2022, Ms Rutter also hopes she’ll finally get to see her peers more frequently in social events, something she describes as key to a student society — finding friendships among peers with shared interests.

“You don’t have to find someone to go with. You just rock up… There’s always someone who just doesn’t know anybody,” she explains.

“It’s just a neutral place to grow and, yeah, find people that are doing the same thing as you.”