Hunter medical students earn while they learn

An Australian-first initiative to boost healthcare staff  and provide medical students with invaluable paid experience is now underway in Hunter New England Local Health District, thanks to a new partnership with the University of Newcastle and TAFE NSW.

The University, TAFE NSW and the Local Health District have partnered to delivery the program

Minister for Regional Health Ryan Park said the ‘Learn while they Earn’ pilot program invites first and second year Bachelor of Medical Science/ Doctor of Medicine (Joint Medical Program) students at the University of Newcastle to become Assistants in Nursing through TAFE NSW workshops and clinical placement.

“This program is helping to build a strong and confident medical workforce,” Mr Park said.

“The experience gained by these medical students will help shape the doctors they become, providing them with greater patient communication and care opportunities.

“It’s fantastic to see our regional health districts being innovative in their efforts to ensure the future of their patients and services, are in good hands.”

Minister for Skills, TAFE, and Tertiary Education, Steve Whan, commended the program and said TAFE NSW plays a critical role in working closely with NSW Health and the industry to deliver skills training for the health sector.

“The NSW Government is committed to helping skill the future nursing industry workforce, and I’m proud of the partnership between TAFE NSW and Hunter New England Local Health District and the University of Newcastle on this innovative program.

“This unique partnership with TAFE NSW supports the NSW Government’s commitment to essential healthcare workers and the continued delivery of healthcare services and health outcomes for patients.

“I recognise the hard work of our TAFE NSW teachers, and their unwavering commitment to innovative skills training and strong industry partnerships,” Mr Whan said.

Hunter New England Local Health District Executive Director Nursing and Midwifery, Elizabeth Grist, said the program came about following a colleagues’ own experience in the United Kingdom.

“Learning from successful overseas initiatives, we have created a unique program which supports interdisciplinary understanding and collaboration, while also growing and supporting the existing skilled workforce,” Ms Grist said.

“Students have found it rewarding to be working alongside our nursing, medical and allied health staff and have acknowledged that the experience allows them to have a greater appreciation of all roles and how they collaborate within a health care facility.”

Dean of the Joint Medical Program at the University of Newcastle and University of New England, Professor Jane Bleasel, said the work and training of an Assistant in Nursing complements the studies of the first and second-year students.

“We’re committed to giving students every opportunity to be highly employable and confident graduates and this program allows our students to gain earlier, and more extensive time in a clinical environment before longer placements later in their degree,” Professor Bleasel said.

“It helps them to gain confidence in the setting and receive greater exposure to a diverse range of clinical areas and staff before they graduate.”

Several wards at John Hunter Hospital, Rankin Park Centre and Belmont Hospital have participated in the pilot program, with hopes to further expand the program to other facilities across the District during the summer semester break.