Bush nursing a big surprise for exchange students 

From left: German students Melanie Boewing and Christine Feldhaus and Centre for Remote Health senior lecturer Sabina Knight

Imagine being paid to study nursing, training exclusively within hospitals and then competing with other graduates for work.

Two German students, who are training to teach nurses, are visiting the Northern Territory as guests of Charles Darwin University (CDU) and the Centre for Remote Health (CRH). They remarked on the stark differences between the ways the two countries train nurses.

Both attend Fachhochschule, a university of applied sciences and are in Australia completing an internship as part of their studies to become nursing academics.

After arriving in Darwin and spending time observing CDU’s undergraduate program, Melanie Boewing and Christine Feldhaus are completing their final two weeks observing the Masters programs of the Alice Springs-based CRH, a joint facility of CDU and Flinders University.

Three weeks into their internships, both said they enjoyed their time in the Territory and saw many differences between Australia and Germany’s nursing cultures.

They admired the greater responsibilities imposed on many Australian nurses, particularly those in regional and remote Australia and said German hospitals paid students to study nursing, which occurred mostly within the hospitals.

The result was a glut of nursing graduates, a far cry from Australia’s critical staff shortages.

They said, however, that qualified Australian nurses had far more opportunities to specialise than their German counterparts, a comment backed by Sabina Knight, senior lecturer at the CRH.

“Nursing in Australia is highly specialised and once you graduate you will generally stream into a specialty such as surgical, critical care, maternal and child health, renal or remote area nursing,” she said.

The duo’s Australian adventure started in 2007 when they decided to combine study and holidays far away from Germany.

“CDU was the first to respond to our emails and we are now experiencing true remote nursing,” Ms Boewing said.

Ms Knight said the CRH staff and students enjoyed the company of their German guests.

“We really enjoyed having Melanie and Christine because we are able to not only show them teaching and learning strategies of our Masters Program in remote health practise and our strong links to the undergraduate program at CDU, but also learn from them,” she said.

She also said the CRH was popular among foreign students who wanted to learn about Australian remote nursing.

“International networking is fantastic and it’s great to develop these professional links. And with modern technology, it should be easier to keep in contact,” she said.

Armed with their most cherished Australian purchase, fly net and hats, the duo will end their Australian adventure with a trip to Western Australia and then Queensland.