How long have you been at USQ?
I have been a nursing academic at USQ just over 5 years. I lecture in Indigenous health & cross cultural care in the Department of Nursing and Midwifery. I am a registered nurse by profession and a lecturer by passion.
Why did you choose your current career path?
My people are the Mandandanji (The Original people from the Maranoa district in South West Queensland). Because of my own Indigeneity I connect emotionally and historically with Indigenous people, therefore I have a vested interest in improving Indigenous health outcomes. While studying my masters (as well as working fulltime as a registered nurse), I was approached by the Indigenous nursing academic at the time (Dr Odette Best) to do some part-time work as an ITAS tutor for Indigenous nursing students and it led to a position here. So, I guess I was mentored into the position by my predecessor – as it was something I would never have thought of doing myself. I think it’s quite serendipitous that my PhD studies are now focused on Indigenous nursing academics.
What do you like most about your role?
Within my role as a lecturer (Indigenous health) in the Department of Nursing & Midwifery, I also coordinate academic/ cultural support for undergraduate and post graduate Indigenous nursing students. I am extremely passionate about supporting Indigenous nursing students in their university dreaming journey’s, which I think, comes from wanting to do for others that which had been previously done for me. I received a lot of support from Odette and the other mainstream nursing academics here in the nursing department throughout both my bachelor and master’s degrees. I am now able to give back and mentor and support other Indigenous nurses to get their nursing degrees.
There is a quote that says ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and I think this quote is particularly significant when applied to Indigenous nursing students who are first introduced to the higher education environment. However, when they are shown that they can achieve and succeed in their studies, they start to believe in themselves and something magical happens and they then realise almost anything is possible. Observing this personal transformational in Indigenous nursing students and attending their graduation ceremony is just ‘priceless’. It’s the one thing I love the most! Within my role I am also able to stay culturally connected with Indigenous communities at the grass roots level. This helps me to continue ‘dreaming with care’ cycle while giving back to my people. It’s great!
Of you contributions or achievements at USQ what are you most proud of?
I am most proud - that the Department of Nursing and Midwifery at USQ are now national leaders by ‘choice’ in recruiting, educating, training and graduating Indigenous students from our nursing programs and we are going to stay there! We set out with a vision focused on outcomes. The momentum keeps building and the outcomes are now evident. In April 2012 it was a very proud moment for us all when our first Indigenous PhD nurse graduated (see media articles). These successful outcomes have been made possible with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people working together…which in my opinion represents the epitome of reconciliation, and I am so grateful to be a participant in this phenomenal success.
What excites you about teaching and learning?
I thoroughly enjoy my teaching, as it allows me to maximize my creativity and innovation. Diversity is something to be treasured, and I really enjoy teaching nursing students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and also learning about their cultures as well. I learn best (by doing – most Indigenous people do) so I guess this is one of the reasons I like to teach this way as well. I do all my teaching in workshop mode face-to-face, and do a lot of interactive ‘doing’ work. What excites me most while teaching is seeing the students face when they go ‘aahhhh’, and I know then that they have restructured their thought processes and created new knowledge. As a nursing educator you need to know that your teaching is effective and that students can go away and then imbed that newly acquired knowledge into their nursing practice - It’s the transformational learning I love!
How do you motivate your students?
I probably motivate my students by self-interest in the subject I teach. Obviously they have chosen nursing as a profession because they want to be in the human care industry. That denotes to me that they possibly have a strong interest in caring for all kinds of people whatever their origins. In order to achieve this outcome they understand that they have to exhibit culturally safety when providing nursing care for their patients. Cultural competence training in nursing is also a mandatory requirement for their nursing registration. The following quote sums up the importance of cultural competence in nursing, - “Without cultural competence, nurses cannot be clinically competent”- (Stein-Parbury, 2005). When nursing students understand this vital connection it motivates them to take more notice and apply what they are learning. Outcomes are good!
What innovations have you implemented in your teaching?
I am a social constructivist – an actively involved teacher in the sense that I do group work which gets the students engaging with each other and learning from each other. I impress on the students that nursing is a team sport. In the first workshop I set up groups in Moodle on the study desk and provide them with a brief patient case study based on a cross cultural nursing scenario. The student’s then work with each other in a group on-line to construct a comprehensive evidenced based cross cultural presentation, which they present in front of the class for the next workshop. There is a lot of hidden curriculum in group work that can contribute to graduate attributes to prepare nursing students for the workforce. We also learn a lot about each other’s ‘cultures’.
Tell us about the grant/award you won from ALTC (OLT) or USQ?
The ‘Helping Hands’ - Indigenised model of support for Indigenous nursing students was created initially from my own empirical data (recorded in my daily dairy) based on my personal experiences as an Indigenous student, and also discussions about ‘what had worked in the past’ with Odette (Past Indigenous nursing academic at USQ) and Rhonda Hagan (Past Indigenous staff LTSU, and Indigenous nursing support SRO at USQ). Due to student enrolments increasing other Indigenous nursing academics were employed to help out. With the help of a team I was then able to transfer the model into a written working form, the model evolved even more with the team’s input and then things really started to take off. The immediate focus was on retention and support – that was our first tool (retention and support) developed in the ‘Helping Hands’ model that got us recognition and that won a USQ Award. We then advanced to win a national ALTC grant in 2011. We attended the 2011 ALTC awards ceremony which was held at the Sydney opera house as a team, which was really quite humbling. We thought that the Eora people would have been very proud of us!!!
(The team included, Ms Lynne Stuart, Ms Anne-Maree Nielsen, Ms Vicki-Ellen Horner, Ms Roslyn Wharton-Boland & Ms Sherry Holzapfel. Acknowledgement – Prof Lorelle Burton, Dr Odette Best, Rhonda Hagan, Kim Walmsley (Artist), The Dean of Sciences and the entire academic and support staff from the Department of Nursing and Midwifery at USQ. The ALTC Citation was awarded for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning for developing retention and support strategies that enable Indigenous nursing students to realise their university dreaming journeys.)
What is your favourite place in the world and why?
Last year I went on a family holiday and spent time in Nice on the French Rivera – while we were there we went to a small village called Saint Paul in Vence. When we arrived, it was this beautiful fortified rock medieval village– no cars – all walking pathways made of cobblestone. In medieval times they used to build the villages with a huge rock wall all around them to protect themselves. The village which is built high on a rocky outcrop seemed to have an earthy vibration, a real good energy and a real haze, almost like the lighting on the movie set. To this day it is an artist’s enclave, and in the past apparently all the great artists used to go there to get inspiration and because it has the best natural lighting for artists to paint by. It was just amazing! http://www.provenceweb.fr/e/alpmarit/stpaul/stpaul.htm
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
I was advised to start ‘a stop doing list’…it’s helped a lot!
What is something about you that your colleagues may not know?
I am pretty open, honest and transparent, but when I was young I was incredibly shy.