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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Supporting nursing students during the pandemic

Nursing is the largest health profession in Australia and plays a crucial role in determining national health outcomes, however workforce planning projections for the nursing workforce show that demand for nurses will significantly exceed supply by 2030.

During a year when the value of nurses became acutely apparent in Australia and around the world, some chose to #ClapForOurCarers, and others sought to motivate students on the cusp of entering the field in which they’re much needed.

At the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) in Bruce, what started as a group assignment became an enduring message of inspiration and appreciation for nursing students.

A pop art inspired mural depicts three nurses wearing masks, encircled by words which describe them – brave, dedicated, compassionate, resilient, and kind.

The mural is on a wall outside a lab where nursing students frequently sit exams.

The students behind the project study community services and each aspire to work in different areas of the sector including youth work, alcohol and other drug services, and mental health support.

Melissa Heckenberg, 24, saw links between the work she and her peers do in community services and the work of other frontline workers, like nurses.

“We just wanted to make sure that we could find a way to show the community our collective appreciation and gratitude for all the work that nurses do, and all the services they provide,” she said.

“Especially during this time with COVID-19, people are having to put in a lot more effort, so we just really wanted to emphasise how much we appreciate the work they do.”

Ms Heckenberg said there was typically a lot of collaboration back and forth between the two professions, because community service workers might refer clients to medical services and vice versa.

The mural was designed by Lauren Bruce, 23, and it became a big collaboration between the five students and their teacher, David, who had experience with similar projects.

Ms Bruce hopes to use her artistic ability in tandem with community development in the future and, reflecting on the challenges and rewards of her current role in disability support, she said small expressions of gratitude can make a big difference in her day.

“They’re both sectors of work that can have a lot of burnout and compassion fatigue,” she said.

For one of the students behind the project, 21-year-old Kayla Wowk, the words on the wall carry a lot of meaning.

“With those words … that was a big thing for us, to put in those words to remind people, you are kind, you are brave,” she said.

“I guess that helps us in our own lives, to see those things for us and then put it out there for them.”

Ms Wowk has completed a qualification in mental health support and works in the industry while continuing her studies in youth work and community services.

Sarah Blake, 20, says the mural adorns a wall outside a room that CIT nursing students know all too well – the labs where exams and assessments occur.

“This is a good space [for the mural] because while they’re all nervous, thinking ‘Why am I doing this?’ it’s a reminder – this is why you’re doing this. And it’s appreciated.”

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