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La Trobe University evaluation of RUSOM pilot supports continued use of student employment model

La Trobe University evaluation of RUSOM pilot supports continued use of student employment model

Since its introduction in 2020, the registered undergraduate student of midwifery (RUSOM) employment model has anecdotally proved as successful as the registered undergraduate student of nursing (RUSON) employment model.

An independent 2022 La Trobe University evaluation of Mercy Health’s RUSOM pilot further consolidates support for the model. The third evaluation of the RUSOM model in Victoria, but the first to include data that reflects the extended list of duties that were introduced in 2021 at Mercy Hospital for Women (MHW) only – not Werribee Mercy Hospital (WMH) – this evaluation confirms that the model is highly valued by both RUSOMs and midwives.

Model enhances work readiness

‘Midwives and RUSOMs reported that the model enhances work readiness of RUSOMs due to additional clinical experience, improved confidence and competence in preparation for their graduate year,’ the evaluation’s final report concludes. ‘Both groups also believe there are benefits to the organisation and that the RUSOM model should continue.’

The evaluation revealed a strong view, from all parties, that the RUSOM model would help build the teaching and learning culture at Mercy Health, would help reduce the workload for midwives on the postnatal ward, and would improve women’s experience and satisfaction with care.

Midwives and RUSOMs also reported that they had a good understanding of the RUSOM duties, and that RUSOMs were clinically and theoretically prepared for work in the model. Regarding the additional duties that were introduced for RUSOMs at Mercy Hospital for Women in December 2021, ‘both the RUSOMs and most midwives believed that the RUSOMs had adequate preparation and consultation to undertake the additional duties’.

In fact, many respondents also believed there were other excluded duties that could be added to the RUSOM duty list – such as measuring and fitting anti-embolic stockings and documenting on general observation charts.

On the other hand, the evaluation results revealed mixed responses on the adequacy of orientation, support and supervision for RUSOMs, how duties were assigned throughout shifts, and rostering processes. ‘This may have been impacted by the timing of the model in the context of the severe workforce shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic,’ say the researchers.

The evaluation, which was conducted between March and July 2022, is timely given recent Andrews Labor Government announcements of ongoing support for the RUSOM (and RUSON) model in the Victorian State Budget for the 2022/23 financial year, which includes the $9.8 million to support 75 RUSOMs over two years.


The evaluation, which was led by Professor Helen McLachlan from La Trobe University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, recommends:

  1. That the RUSOM model continue at both MHW and WMH.
  2. That WMH considers increasing the list of duties, in line with those introduced at MHW, that can be undertaken by RUSOMs.
  3. That both WMH and MHW consider increasing the overall list of duties that RUSOMs can undertake (ensuring appropriate orientation, support and supervision).
  4. The MHW and WMH consider expanding the number of RUSOMs and/or the coverage provided across the roster.
  5. The MHW and WMH continue to monitor how RUSOMs are supported with rostering to ensure flexibility for managing university and placement requirements.