UOW’s regional campuses see highest ever nursing enrolments
Pandemic, desire to help others, inspires students to pursue career in nursing
The University of Wollongong’s (UOW) regional campuses have seen a boom in the number of students interested in pursuing a career in nursing, with many attributing their decision to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At UOW Bega and Batemans Bay, applications to study a Bachelor of Nursing have grown more than 50 per cent on last year’s enrolments, comprising a mix of high school leavers and mature age students.
Sam Avitaia, Campus Manager at UOW Bega, said she had been surprised by such a significant increase in enrolments, but it was a testament to the calibre of the facilities at UOW’s regional campuses and the emphasis placed on the importance of nurses in society.
In 2016, the University opened the $1.5 million Nursing Clinical Learning Facility at UOW Bega, which includes a three-bed hospital ward to enhance the practical teaching and learning environment for nursing students.
The state-of-the-art nursing facilities, developed in close partnership with Southern NSW Local Health District, were part of a major investment in the regional campus.
Ms Avitaia said she has been receiving daily enquiries from students interested in nursing and there is now a waiting list to undertake the degree at Bega.
“Nursing has been incredibly popular at Bega and at Batemans Bay,” Ms Avitaia said. “With everything that has happened in the past year, people have seen how important it is for us to have nurses in regional hospitals. It is also a really good career path for those looking for stability. Last year, 100 per cent of our nursing graduates received employment.”
The impact of the pandemic on the health system, as well as the subsequent social shift to regional living, means that many students who would once have left the area are now staying to study.
Ms Avitaia said a number of the applicants had been inspired by the pandemic to pursue a career that would enable them to make a difference in other’s lives.
“The feedback we’ve been getting is that many students just want to help, and nursing is a way for them to do that. They’ve recognised the importance of nurses to the health system.
“A lot more of our high school leavers are staying local,” Ms Avitaia said. “They are realising that there are work opportunities in their local areas. Whereas in a different year, many would have moved to the city, they now want to start their studies in the area and see how things go. There are also a number of mature age students who have been nursing overseas, but are starting at UOW to become accredited in Australia.”
Jaimey Facchin, Campus Manager of UOW Batemans Bay, has seen the same trend play out a little further up the coast. Enrolment rates for the Bachelor of Nursing at Batemans Bay Campus are also up by approximately 50 per cent.
Ms Facchin said in addition to a desire to help others, many of the enrolled students have an eye to the future of the region, with a new Eurobodalla Hospital scheduled to be built in the coming years.
“We have a shortage of all health professionals, so it is really great to be training local people who understand regional health issues,” Ms Facchin said. “There is a new hospital planned for the Eurobodalla region, and it will need to be staffed, so many of our students who are training in the region are hoping to put those skills back in to the community.”
Professor Tracey Moroney OAM, Acting Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, said nurses were vital to the health care system and it was heartening to see an increase in enrolments on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Nursing matters,” Professor Moroney said. “This past year has demonstrated to the greater public how vital nurses are to our health system. It is wonderful to see that nursing is popular in all areas of the state, but in particular in our regional communities.”