The evolution of the health care professional

Monday, 6 June 2016


In an industry where treatment and service delivery in nursing is moving ahead in leaps and bounds, a postgraduate qualification is fast becoming a requirement.

“It was pretty clear to me that if I wanted to advance my career I needed to explore doing postgraduate study. All the positions I was enquiring about needed that level of qualification. It’s opened doors and presented me with opportunities I didn’t think I would have at this stage of my career.”

These are the reflections of Fiona Faulkner, Undergraduate Educator at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, who completed a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Nursing at ACU – a decision that has propelled her career development and left her eager to explore further study opportunities.

ACU has long established a reputation as one of the premier education providers for nursing and midwifery studies, with postgraduate offerings continuing to expand to meet the growing needs of the industry.

This evolution of postgraduate education comes as more nurses and midwives recognise the necessity of further study to open doors for career progression and skills specialisation.

ACU School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Course Coordinator Mental Health (Nursing) Dr Val Goodwin said the industry is demanding postgraduate qualification of their nursing professionals.

“It’s well recognised across all parts of the nursing field that in order to rise through the ranks – for career progression, but also in terms of consolidating a specialty arm of practice –postgraduate study is absolutely necessary,” Dr Goodwin said.

“It’s not just a nice qualification to have; it’s a requirement. You won’t be competitive in the industry unless you can demonstrate that your knowledge and skills have progressed to the next level.”

These requirements are driving the demand also by students to meet the evolving way services are delivered in the field.

“The demand for offerings is coming from students and industry – they go hand in hand. An example of this is the mental health suite of postgraduate courses, which was developed in response to industry demand, resulting from changes in the way services are delivered,” Dr Goodwin said.

“This sparked a real desire within industry to have their nurses, in particular, renew and embark on their postgraduate qualifications in a way that reflects the contemporary approach of the industry. So our course was built with this in mind.”

The correlation between education and career advancement, and the desire to adapt to an ever-changing industry, inspired Fiona to initially explore the possibility of postgraduate study.

“Working in the surgical ward I was exposed to so many different areas of specialisation and opportunities for career development,” she said.

“The common thread between all these opportunities to progress my career was postgraduate qualifications, and it was clear that I would have to return to university to further develop my skills and knowledge.”

Since completing her postgraduate studies in 2014, Fiona has been able to pursue her ambitions of taking on roles that facilitate further education opportunities for other staff in her ward.

“As a clinical nurse specialist, my role involves working alongside the hospital’s education team and nurse unit managers to provide our nurses with ongoing educational support and advice. As part of this role I have assisted in delivering many seminars to staff and newly employed graduates,” Fiona said.

This has enticed her to consider further study as she looks to explore a career path in clinical education and management roles –and the economic benefits further qualifications bring.

“Along with the career progression doors that were opened, there were the financial benefits in terms of remuneration and allowances that, while not being the complete focus, certainly solidified that I’d made the right decision,” Fiona said.

“Facilitating training and education for nurses is something I’m really enjoying, and I see myself heading into that education side of nursing, so further study in that area would position me to follow that career path.”

Completing her undergraduate degree at Federation University in Ballarat, Fiona’s decision to choose ACU for her postgraduate studies was fuelled by her personal experiences working with ACU students and alumni.

“We see a lot of ACU students come through our hospital for placement. Their clinical knowledge and professional attitude stood out to me when on the ward and dealing with staff and educators,” Fiona said.

ACU domestic graduates from any faculty enrolling in full fee-paying postgraduate studies in the Faculty of Health Sciences will be offered a 10 per cent rebate, to ease the financial burden associated with further study.

To find out more about the midyear postgraduate offerings available in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine visit the ACU website at