Celebrating working nurses

UOW alumna and current doctoral candidate is awarded a new scholarship

“It was like nursing chose me. I really felt like I found my place and my home,” said Alera Bowden, the first recipient of the Pamela Jane Nye Working Nurse Scholarship at the University of Wollongong.


In high school Alera played sports at state and national levels. She wanted to become a physical education teacher but wasn’t accepted into the degree. Instead, she enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Wollongong. 

“My original plan was to do a semester of nursing and transfer,” explained Alera.  

“As an 18-year-old coming out of high school, nursing was very eye opening. I loved caring for other people and making connections with them. So, I made an informed decision to stay in nursing. 

“It’s amazing how life leads you to these choices. I later took on the career path of becoming a Nurse Educator. I may not be teaching students physical education, but I’m teaching nurses. I feel like I found my path, alongside my original idea but nursing was more authentic for who I am.” 

After graduating with a Bachelor of Nursing from UOW, Alera worked at Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Liverpool Hospital’s emergency department, and as a remote nurse on Heron Island in Queensland.  

After 12 months in the remote nursing role, Alera returned to Liverpool Hospital and worked as a Clinical Nurse Educator, Research Project Officer and Registered Nurse. She then returned to Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District as a Clinical Nurse Educator. During this time, Alera completed a Master of Education (Adult Education) from UOW and is currently doing her PhD in Nursing at UOW. Alongside her doctoral studies, Alera is working as a Research Project Manager at Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.  

“My approach to nursing has been about being open to opportunity and I think that’s why my path has been varied – I’ve changed between remote nursing, emergency, aged-care, education, and research. I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility that nursing provides.” 

Alera said that her move from being a practicing nurse into education stemmed from her passion and interest in empowering nurses to feel competent and confident in their skills and care delivery. 

“I want to make education fun for nurses which is why I’m interested in innovative and experiential learning. 

“The great thing about being a Clinical Nurse Educator is that I’m still at the coalface. For my clinical research – the work I’m doing for my PhD and at the Local Health District – I’m working with staff in a clinical setting.” 

Alera’s PhD is looking at ageing simulation and improvements in healthcare professionals’ empathy and person-centred care.  

“My work explores the use of ageing simulation to give nurses insight into what it’s like to be an older person. I received funding to purchase ageing simulation suits which are a technology with components such as glasses, earmuffs and weights that give a full body experience of the ageing process.  

“Wearing ageing suits gives nurses the opportunity to understand and feel what it’s like to be an older person. The glasses simulate cataracts, the earmuffs simulate hearing impairment, and the weights simulate muscle degeneration and mobility problems.” 

Alera designed a program where nurses would complete activities that older people face in the hospital while wearing the suit. These included completing forms, communicating with the nurses, or making a cup of tea.  

students wearing aging simulator
Image: Nurses wearing an ageing suit

“After these simulation scenarios, I sat down with the nurses and connected with their emotions. I asked questions like, what was difficult, what made things easier, how did it make you feel? Then we used those experiences to ask, how will this influence your practice?” 

Alera wanted to engage a diverse nurse workforce in a way that was meaningful. She said that although nurses receive a lot of education, it’s often not changing their practice.  

“I wanted to find something that the nurses enjoyed and that they had fun doing. I’m also a big believer in learning by doing and then reflecting on that experience.” 

After taking part in Alera’s program, the nurses said that they now take their time with older people that have impairments.  

“The nurses had an increased understanding into what it would be like not to be able to hear properly, or not to be able to see. They felt more connected with the older people they cared for because they had greater insight into what they were going through.” 

Alera is the first ever student at UOW to receive a Pamela Jane Nye Working Nurse Scholarship. The scholarship was established to support a Registered Nurse who is working part-time while undertaking postgraduate nursing studies at UOW.  

Alera with UOW VC
Image: Alera (right) with UOW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Patricia M. Davidson

“What I loved about this scholarship was the recognition of being a working nurse. I don’t think I’ve seen anything else out there that acknowledges and celebrates working as a clinician and doing higher degree research.” 

Alera said that she felt overwhelmed, excited, and humbled when she found out she was awarded the scholarship. 

“It’s nice to be acknowledged for my experience and the things I’m trying to achieve. I’m so honoured to be the first recipient of this scholarship and I love knowing that it’s something that’s going to be supported after me – that there will be other working nurses that I can encourage to apply. It feels like what we do matters. 

“You make certain sacrifices to do higher degree research studies – I had to go part-time in my job to manage the workload of my PhD. The extra money from the scholarship will support what I’m trying to achieve. 

“This award is not just about me, it’s about the people who are supporting me with my PhD – my colleagues, my managers, my leaders, and everyone who has lifted me up. It’s an opportunity to recognise that we’re all in this together and that for us to move forward as a nursing profession, we need to do it together.” 

About the Pamela Jane Nye Working Nurse Scholarship

The Pamela Jane Nye Working Nurse Scholarship was established to support a Registered Nurse intending to work at least part-time while undertaking postgraduate nursing studies at the University of Wollongong.

This prestigious scholarship in part of an international scholarship program with elite universities in the United States of America including UCLA Medical Centre, Martin Luther King Hospital, UCLA School of Nursing and UCSF School of Nursing.

Pamela Jane Nye has more than 25 years’ experience as a Neuroscience Clinical Nurse Specialist, providing high quality clinical practice standards and education to nurses working in large, tertiary medical centres in California USA. Pamela is also the CEO of Neuroscience Nursing, Ltd. and CEO/Board Chair/Executive Director of Operation Scrubs, Inc., a non-profit educational organization supporting working nurses seeking to achieve higher education. Pamela Nye’s commitment to raising the profile of nursing as the unsung heroes of healthcare is demonstrated in many countless ways including the expansion of her generous scholarship program internationally.

 


 

Alera Bowden 

Doctor of Philosophy – PhD, Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse (2018–2022) 

Master of Education – MEd, Adult Education 

Bachelor of Nursing 


 

About the Pamela Jane Nye Working Nurse Scholarship

The Pamela Jane Nye Working Nurse Scholarship was established to support a Registered Nurse intending to work at least part-time while undertaking postgraduate nursing studies at the University of Wollongong.

This prestigious scholarship in part of an international scholarship program with elite universities in the United States of America including UCLA Medical Centre, Martin Luther King Hospital, UCLA School of Nursing and UCSF School of Nursing.

Pamela Jane Nye has more than 25 years’ experience as a Neuroscience Clinical Nurse Specialist, providing high quality clinical practice standards and education to nurses working in large, tertiary medical centres in California USA. Pamela is also the CEO of Neuroscience Nursing, Ltd. and CEO/Board Chair/Executive Director of Operation Scrubs, Inc., a non-profit educational organization supporting working nurses seeking to achieve higher education. Pamela Nye’s commitment to raising the profile of nursing as the unsung heroes of healthcare is demonstrated in many countless ways including the expansion of her generous scholarship program internationally.