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You can't ask that

CDU celebrates the International Year of Nurse and Midwife
Nursing student at CDU
College of Nursing and Midwifery

This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the globe, health professionals continue to step up and show up, to help fight the crisis and support their communities, despite the health risks to themselves.

It seems, therefore, fitting that 2020 has been named the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

To celebrate the daily contribution that the world’s nurses and midwives make to our nation, and the world, Charles Darwin University’s College of Nursing and Midwifery held two special webinars.

The first was held on May 5 to coincide with the International Day of the Midwife.

Hosted by Associate Professor Donna Hartz, with a panel including Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery Northern Territory Mish Hill, Professor Sue Kildea and Professor Sue Kruske, the webinar honoured the millions of midwives around the world, along with the women whose birth stories they have shared in. 

The panellists shared their own personal stories of entering the midwifery profession and what it means to them, along with the issues they felt were still being faced by the industry and the women in which they serve.

A recurring them was the importance of continuity of midwifery care.

“We have a unique philosophy of care that we should celebrate, and we should advocate for,” said Professor Kruske.

“Unfortunately, we work for a very medical model, and it’s hard for women to survive that system in a way that does make them feel strong and capable and confident mothers.

“And the best way they can do that is having great midwives telling them they believe in their ability to do so.

“Continuity of midwife care is the best way for that to happen. Unfortunately, the majority of women across the country still don’t get access to those models but it’s improving.”

She also spoke about the ‘unlearning’ required for midwives who began their careers in nursing, where the focus was providing care for patients, rather than guiding.

“Midwives walk alongside women to help them be the best version of themselves as they enter into motherhood.”

The International Day of the Nurse was held on May 12, and to celebrate, the College hosted a special You Can’t Ask That! – Nurses Edition.

After reaching out to the university community, hosts College Dean Professor Catherine Turner and Adjunct Professor Sue Hawes committed to answering a range of submitted questions – with no topic off-limits.

The event didn’t disappoint!

Here are a couple of standout questions from the webinar, and the summarised responses provided to listeners.

Q. Most of us understand the challenges females face in male-dominated professions, do males face the same problems in nursing?

 I’m not a man so I can’t respond from a man’s perspective, but I’m sure men face some similar gender equity issues in nursing. It’s very much a female-dominated profession, and it’s been like that for decades - we’d like to change that. It’s not that way in other countries, it’s definitely a cultural issue in Australia that men do not enter the nursing profession.

Even though men represent about 10 per cent of the profession, they do tend to be fortunate enough, and I’m generalising, they do tend to be able to work full time for most of their career, while the females are often working part-time and taking time out of their career to have children and raise families.

You do find that men are still overrepresented in senior management and in the senior academic roles.

So, it’s not quite the same for men in nursing, as women in male-dominated professions, but they must have some gender issues that they deal with. And I’d certainly like to see more than 10 per cent of men in nursing.

Q. What do registered nurses think of international nurses in placement and what would be some suggestions for international students before placement.

I’ve been fortunate to work in a number of jurisdictions and the thing that comes up the most is the tension between the limited student places and some of our biases around why aren’t we giving it to local people first, why are international students taking student placements.

It’s a conversation that we need to have with each other as a profession. I would suggest that any student who has got themselves a place in a program deserves equal opportunity irrespective of their origin.

I think that we need to be very careful because there are certainly amazing, beautiful cultural things that can enrich our experience as Australians in having students from other countries work with us on placement.

Sometimes I think we underestimate and under appreciate the reciprocal benefits that we get from those kinds of experience.

Q. What can we do to make nursing a more powerful voice in Australian politics?

In sheer numbers, nurses are a powerful voice, but I don’t think we always realise our own collective power. I think it’s about nurses needing to unite and realise the power of the voice that they do have. And we need to do that through our professional organisations.

The other thing is we need to stop looking and seeking permission to speak and just take the place at the table and ensure that our voice is heard. Stop waiting for permission, just do it.