Why 4 years when 3 will do? Enhanced knowledge for rural nursing practice


Amanda Kenny, LaTrobe University Bendigo, PO Box 199, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. E-mail: <a.kenny@bendigo.latrobe.edu.au>


In Australia, debates over the appropriate length of undergraduate nursing programs have a long history. Submissions from both universities and industry to key government reports have consistently argued that the current minimum entry level of practice, a three-year program, is too short to enable students to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for the contemporary nursing role. Despite these submissions, the established entry level for nursing practice in Australia remains a three-year undergraduate bachelor degree. However, there is a small group of high-achieving students who will begin practice at the end of a four-year program. Little is known about these programs, or the students who are currently enrolled in them. Designed as a collaborative endeavour, based on co-operative inquiry, the study discussed in this article aimed to provide an insight into aspects of a four-year undergraduate nursing program. Potentially, the broader theoretical and clinical preparation that is possible in a four-year program provides students with enhanced learning opportunities that will enable them to graduate with more confidence and greater ability. In this study a four-year program provided an opportunity for a regional university to prepare students for the demanding realities of a complex area of practice, rural nursing.