Issue 3
Monday, 14 March 2016
Charles Darwin University
Sr Jennifer Farrell in the training ward at Alice Springs campus
Sr Jennifer Farrell in the training ward at Alice Springs campus

Nursing trainer brings student dreams to life

By Patrick Nelson

Sister Jennifer Farrell was in her element last week helping nursing students at Charles Darwin University’s Alice Springs campus “realise their dreams”.

“It’s my favourite part of the job … interacting with the students and supporting them in pursuit of their dreams,” she said.

“It’s the most exciting part of the job and the most fun.”

Sr Jennifer is part of a four-strong nurses’ teaching team that delivered the first simulation block of the new academic year last week.

“We had a big group of 16 students mostly from interstate although two were locals,” she said.

“They were third-year Bachelor of Nursing students completing their final intensive block before they go to their placements.”

Sr Jennifer said the week-long program focused on consolidating knowledge and reinforcing a broad range of clinical skills.

Central to the program are eight medical mannequins, each programmed to simulate behaviour consistent with a series of common clinical conditions.

“Each of them has a name and a story. We show them care and treat them with respect just as though they were people.”

And while Sr Jennifer is a nursing lecturer by day, she also is a Catholic nun in her 34th year of religious life.

“I’m a Sister in the Congregation of the Good Samaritan, Order of St Benedict,” she said.

“We were the first religious Order founded in Australia for Australian conditions. Our ministry involved looking after women who came off the boats in the early days of the colony.

“We also looked after orphans, and later we developed into teaching. It’s about being a good neighbour to those in need.”

It is a career choice that has taken her to all mainland states and most Australian capital cities and Broome, before moving to Alice Springs last year.

Sr Jennifer said she had a “passion for pathways into nursing”.

“Probably because that was how I came through myself; an enrolled nurse to begin with, then a Bachelor of Nursing, then a midwife, and there was other training, including a graduate diploma as a spiritual director (theology).

“I’m a strong believer in supporting students at the vocational level to progress into higher education.

“I’m always asking ‘How do we get you there, how can we encourage you to be the best person you can be?’

“And the answer usually rests in having the right support.

“If they have the right support, or the right mentor, we can get people to their dreams,” she said.

Nursing has developed into the biggest school at Charles Darwin University with a student population of 3200 across bachelor and postgraduate programs. It has also developed a reputation for research of the highest quality, having last year achieved a maximum score of five by the Australian Research Council in the Nursing and Public Health and Health Services categories.

Staff in Alice Springs will deliver a further 13 scheduled simulation blocks this year.