Away from Base Midwifery team wins Staff Excellence Award

Published: Thursday 18th August 2016

Photo of Away from Base Midwifery team

Photo: (L to R) Associate Professor Paula Schulz, Ms Denise Burdett-Jones, Dr Lynne Dunne, Ms Machellee Kosiak, Ms Gail Baker, Ms Jocyln Neal

The Away from Base Midwifery Team from the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine (QLD) has won the Vice Chancellor’s Staff Excellence Award for Excellence in Student Experience for their outstanding program of work in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwifery students and graduates. The team has implemented strategies to strengthen student support in the Away From Base Bachelor of Midwifery program (AFB BMid) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students using a cycle of continuous improvement  to develop resources that support and engage students and help assure student success.

The Away from Base Midwifery team led by Associate Professor Paula Schulz, State Head of School, includes the following academic and professional staff from the School:

  • Ms Machellee Kosiak, Indigenous Lecturer in Midwifery and Away from Base Bachelor of Midwifery Course Advisor
  • Dr Lynne Dunne, Senior Lecturer in Midwifery and Course Coordinator, Bachelor of Midwifery
  • Ms Gail Baker, Lecturer in Midwifery and Clinical Coordinator, Bachelor of Midwifery
  • Ms Joclyn Neal,  Lecturer in Midwifery and Continuity of Care Experience Coordinator, Bachelor of Midwifery
  • Ms Denise Burdett-Jones, Project Officer

The AFB BMid program is a small, innovative course designed to prepare Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to work as graduate midwives in their home communities. An increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the maternity workforce able to work in their home communities is an Australian workforce priority and a key imperative that drives the need for success with the AFB BMid program.

Away from Base mode provides an alternative to on-campus delivery that enables students to undertake the Bachelor of Midwifery program full-time, attending the University for four residential blocks each year and studying the program by distance between each residential block. This model minimises the time students spend away from family, facilitates the maintenance of community links and increases the likelihood that these students will return as graduates to their home communities to practice midwifery.

A significant challenge for the course is timely progression to graduation. Further, the attrition rate for students in their first semester is high. Since 2013, in direct response to these issues, a suite of innovative strategies and resources, informed by Aboriginal pedagogies and best practice literature, have been developed and implemented by the team to provide additional program specific support for students at crucial pressure points in the program.

These strategies have included an enhanced role for the Indigenous Lecturer in Midwifery and the development of resources to support student learning and engagement. These resources include an online Student Learning Community, online orientation and transition support modules for commencing students, a Midwifery Education Resource Kit for clinical facilitators supporting students in rural and remote health facilities and the inclusion of an additional clinical placement opportunity in a tertiary facility in Brisbane.

These resources have been well received by students and have resulted in improved student engagement, earlier identification of struggling students and improvement in the student learning experience. The resources have also been instrumental in facilitating students to achieve graduation in a more timely way.

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