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Expanded James Cook University Masters course equips nurses to 'go bush'

Photo: Professor Melanie Birks and JCU nursing students
Australians in rural and remote areas have less access to health care compared with people in urban areas, yet many nurses feel unprepared to transition from metropolitan centres to work in the high-demand, independent and resource-scarce settings found in more rural and remote areas. 

James Cook University’s (JCU) College of Healthcare Sciences has set out to remedy this situation by adding a major in Advanced Practice to its 100 per cent online Master of Nursing program. The new major will equip nurses with the knowledge and skills they need to enjoy the challenge of providing comprehensive advanced care in locations where nurses are often the primary providers of healthcare services.

The Advanced Practice major from JCU, one of Australia’s top 10 nursing schools[1], comprises four subjects: Advanced Health Assessment, Quality Use of Medicines in Practice, Diagnostic Reasoning for Advanced Practice and Applied Health Assessment and Advanced Practice.
These build on the core subjects taken by all JCU Master of Nursing students and distinguish the Advanced Practice major from the other two majors available within the degree – Nurse Education and Leadership and Management.

Professor Melanie Birks, Head of Nursing and Midwifery at James Cook University, said: “The healthcare industry is quickly expanding, with longer life expectancies and a growing population adding to the demand for skilled nursing practitioners. Much of this demand is not being met in rural and remote areas.

“We recognise the importance of upskilling nurses to deliver advanced patient care, particularly in these areas. We have carefully designed this major to provide a deeper understanding of clinical practice in rural and remote communities, with a focus on health assessment, quality use of medicines and a stronger understanding of the diagnostic reasoning process.

“These subjects enable nurses to make astute decisions in challenging environments where they may be isolated from other professionals, so they can be confident they will achieve the best outcomes for their patients,” said Professor Birks.

Professor Birks said nurses with a Master’s qualification command higher salaries, and are in great demand for a variety of professionally satisfying roles. Nurse unit managers earn between $95,530 and $130,586 a year, which is about $30,000 more per year than the salary of a registered nurse, she said.

In many rural and remote areas, “the majority of healthcare providers in these locations are nurses. Therefore, nurse-led health care is an essential component of health care delivery in these areas,” the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation says.[2]

Entry requirements for the JCU Online Master of Nursing include a bachelor’s degree in nursing or equivalent qualification, and registration as a nurse in Division 1 with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. The next study period starts on 29 October 2018. Subsequent enrolment periods begin in January, March, May, July and September 2019.

“With six study periods a year, the degree empowers students to turn their investment into increased earnings in as little as two years, depending on prior learning. Moreover, candidates will learn from some of Australia’s most experienced nursing academics and network with tutors and classmates,” Professor Birks said.

Candidates for the Master of Nursing at JCU will be able to complete the online degree at a time, place and pace that suit their situation. Students can access everything they need – including course content, assignments and coursework – from their home, workplace or indeed anywhere that has an internet connection.

Nurses who have completed the Rural and Isolated Practice Registered Nurse course through Queensland Health’s Cunningham Centre will be able to receive advanced standing for two specialised subjects in JCU’s new Advanced Practice major: Advanced Health Assessment and Quality Use of Medicines in Practice.

Professor Birks said: “These subjects form part of the nested Graduate Certificate qualification within the Master of Nursing. By gaining advanced standing, students will reduce the number of subjects they’ll need to complete in the Graduate Certificate by half. These students will therefore only need to undertake the equivalent of four months of study to graduate with this qualification.”

For more information about the Master of Nursing online degree offered by James Cook University, please visit their website here 


[1] University Reviews, 2017 Best Nursing Schools in Australia

2 http://anmf.org.au/documents/submissions/ANMF_Pre-Budget_Submission_2018-19.pdf

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