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Nurse training plan to address shortage

Howard’s plan is short sighted and a bandaid solution to a long term problem. He fails to address the real issues of the decline in the nursing profession which will not be fixed by his plans. He fails to appreciate how the 170 000 000 could better used to support existing training of nurses which could both improve nursing training and be part of a long term solution to the nursing shortage. He fails to appreciate the potential for creating a two tiered nursing profession, the likes of which society and the profession are only now beginning to put behind them.

And on a personal note I am outraged at the implication in his statement about the poor quality of nursing training in it’s present form. I have been apologising for being a uni trained nurses since I graduated… I have cared for people when all that was between them and death was me… and I have held the hands of people whose life was at its end. I have done it well and I owe it all the quality of training I received at uni. Fix the problem Howard, don’t fish for votes.


A few days early, but I’m off again to Pormpuraaw. It seems a little weird driving two days back from Charters Towers only to do my washing and get on a plane to fly back up FNQ. My head feels as though it is still spinning from my time at ASSG. Usually I need at least a week to process my trip to Souls. It will be a challenge to rush straight from that into another three weeks of nursing. Though I am looking forward to my time at Pormpuraaw. Just driving back into Brisbane city trafic the other day reminded me of how much I’m beginning to dislike the busyness of suburban – city life and how much I enjoy the slower pace of places like Charters Towers and Pormpuraaw. I like them because they give time to think and to be. Something which seems to be sadly lacking of opportunity in the ‘big smoke’.

Pormopuraaw Town Centre

Pormpuraaw is a small remote indigenous community on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula. In 1938 it was established as the Edward River Mission by the Anglican Church. In 1967 the Church handed over administration of the community to the Queensland Government. In 1986 an elected Community Council assumed responsibility for, and gained title over, the land. The following year, in 1987, the community was renamed Pormpuraaw; after a local dreamtime story. The community predominantly consists of members of the Thaayorre and Mungkan people. Remarkably traditional language usage remains strong; even among children whose first language is often a local language, with English being a second or sometimes third language. There is also an active conservation of culture passed on from the Elders to younger generations.

The Pormpuraaw Primary Health Care Centre is staffed by registered nurses and aboriginal health workers. It provides 24 hour primary health care and emergency services. The Royal Flying Doctor Service  also provide emergency and primary health care services to the town of Pormpuraaw. RFDS clinics are conducted two days a week and arrange evacuation of people with serious illness or injury during the rest of the time. Nurses and health care staff work closely with the RFDS in the assessment, management and treatment of clients presenting to the clinic, as well as people with chronic illnesses. Clinic staff have 24 hour access to RFDS on call doctors via telephone.

Nursing in this context is both rewarding and challenging. It enables nurses, and health care staff, to develop a certain amount of autonomy and independence not experienced in mainstream health facilities. It also requires nurses and health care staff to be able to act quickly and decisively in emergent situations to liaise with the RFDS on call team to provide pre-hospital care for the sick or seriously ill patient. Given that definitive care may be at least 1 1/2 hour away this can be a very challenging situation. However, it is precisely this challenge that makes working in this type of position exciting and rewarding.

Google Map Links to Pormpuraaw 

The Catholic Forum lists 8 Saints as patrons of nursing, some factual some apocryphal. Alexius, Camillus of Lellis and St John of God were men who dedicated their lives to the service of the sick and poor and inspired, or founded male religious communities of nurses. Alexius the son of a wealthy Roman senator, considered to be the ‘Holy Man of God’ was to be married but his fiancee let him pursue his vocation. He lived a life of prayer and teaching the cathechism in the guise of a beggar in the home of his parents. He is the patron St of the Alexian Brothers. Camillus de Lellis  was the son of a military officer. A ‘wayward’ youth, he later joined the Capuchin order, however illness prevented him from taking his vows. He later became administrator of the San Giacomo hospital in Rome and eventually became a priest. He dedicated his life to the service of the sick and poor as a penance his is misspent youth. He founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Sick (the Camellians) who care for the sick in home and hospital. John of God, another wayward youth left the military to purse a vocation of caring for the sick, poor and homeless; giving what he had, begged for those who couldn’t, carried those who would not walk on their own. John founded the Order of Charity and the Order of Hospitallers of Saint John of God. Is there a theme running here? Does God call all those wayward youths with misspent childhoods to care for the sick?

Nursing; are you man enough

I saw this poster on a website which chronicles some of the milestones in the history of men in nursing. Apparently in India (250 BC) only men were considered ‘pure’ enough to become nurses. During the Byzantine Empire nursing was also an occupation primarily practiced by men. During the time of the European plagues religious orders of men were established to provide nursing care. The earliest of these were the Alexian Brothers. In the 12th century a group of men and women banded together to care for the victims of the plague. This group were considered unorthodox and heretical because of their activities. Which of course was to simply follow the commandments of Christ. Some of this group, located around the Rhine, formed the origins of the Alexian Brothers; named so because they took on as their patron 5th century St Alexis. The also aparently recieved support from the Franciscan community. Other military, religious and lay communities continued to provide nursing care in the Middle Ages; the Knights Hospitalers, the Hospital Brothers of St Anthony and the Knights of St Lazarus are some of the more well known. St. John of God and St. Camillus de Lellis both started out as soldiers, and later turned to nursing came from this period.

An interesting point they note on this site is that in America from around the 1900s as female nursing organisations became more prevalent and organised men came to be excluded from nursing. With the formation of the Army Nursing Corps in 1901 men were no longer able to serve as nurses, the same was the case during the Korean war. It was only after the later that men were allowed to serve as nurses in the military an the numbers of men serving in civilian nursing roles also grew. Eventually nursing schools that were open exclusively to females began to open their doors to men.

This website provoked my interest partly because of the reference to nursing and male religious communities. I wonder if I’d been raised Catholic (which seems to be the predominate denomination where male religious orders existed, I don’t know if there are any Anglican Religious Orders exclusively for nurses, must find that out) and known of them whether or not I might have ended up as an Alexian or John of God brother. I was also intrigued to learn about the shift from nursing being a predominantly male profession – vocation – to predominantly female; of course the numbers today are still heavily female but the numbers of men are increasing.

Nursing; are you man enough. I had to laugh at that poster. I can vividly recall a female lecturer who stood up in front of my sociology class. Extending her hands out at the shoulder, palms facing down, with fingers loose and wiggling, she said what am I… no one answered … a… she said referring to the female reproductive organs. She then proceeded to tell the few men in my class (well most merely adolescents just out of school) how we did not belong in a woman’s profession. It strikes me now I would have liked to have known this information about men and nursing then that I read today.

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9/5 - 11/5 Formation Intensive, SFC