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Nurturing our workforce – the RUSON model

Nurturing our workforce – the RUSON model

RUSON Sarah Gordon (left) with Denielle Beardmore, Director – Clinical Education and Practice Development, Ballarat Health Services

Bachelor of Nursing students will have more opportunities to develop their practical skills through paid ward experience in addition to their clinical placements.

The Registered Undergraduate Students of Nursing (RUSON) model is a pilot program to employ second and third year students above the ratio to undertake general nursing activities under the delegation and supervision of registered nurses.

It’s had a chequered beginning. Premier Daniel Andrews first agreed to the pilot when he was health minister in 2010. Work stopped during the Baillieu/Napthine Government and resumed when ANMF secured commitments from the Andrews Government prior to the 2014 state election for nursing students to ‘earn while they learn’ before their graduate year.

Participants are provided with a list of included and excluded duties, while staff are trained to support the student and ensure they’re working within their scope of practice.

Branch Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick believes the program is an investment to ‘future-proof’ Victoria’s public health system, within a well-educated and experienced workforce, leading to better patient care.

‘Providing employment to undergraduate nursing students as part of the RUSON model is positive for students, health services and patients,’ she said.

‘Students are employed in a role which complements their studies, and supports the provision of more timely care.

‘Anecdotally we know the program is providing a better transition from student to graduate.’

The feedback of registered nurses to the initial pilot programs was overwhelmingly positive, with registered nurses saying RUSONs had made an enormous difference to their workloads and patients were receiving more timely care.

RUSON was first piloted for a year in 2016 at Monash Health, Alfred Health and Eastern Health, with Northern Health and Peninsula Health following in 2017. Other health services are now coming on board.

Ballarat Health Services is leading the way with the first regional pilot, consisting of East Grampians Health Service, Stawell Regional Health, Rural North West Health and Otway Health, plus four health services in the Loddon Mallee region.

Denielle Beardmore from Ballarat Health Services said that they received positive feedback from patients within the early weeks of the Grampians pilot.

Ms Beardmore believes RUSON is an invaluable way to showcase what a regional/rural setting can offer and allows you to earn while you learn.

‘In regional or rural health, you have everything in one ward; you must be a good all-rounder, and RUSON gives you an opportunity to explore that’, she says.

Sarah Gordon is a second year nursing/paramedic student based in a surgical general ward at Ballarat Base Hospital. She said that the RUSON experience has increased her communication and basic nursing skills.

‘When I go on placement and start working (as a nurse), those basic skills are going to be like second nature.

‘One thing that I’ve found that is really nice is having time to spend with the patient so there’s not that rush that nurses sometimes have.’

She said that the nursing staff also appreciate having a RUSON as it frees up their time to focus on more advanced nursing tasks.

Catherine Morales, a second year nursing student, said that being a RUSON allows her to put theory into practice and observe how the nursing team works.

She said that while RUSONs are limited in the tasks they are able to do, she’s learnt through observation and working with staff, the systems and processes involved in patient care, such as preparation for discharge.

‘It’s much more than the tasks outlined, it’s being in the environment,’ she said.

One highlight was her first code grey and watching how calm staff were in managing the patient to de-escalate the situation.

Both Sarah and Catherine agree that working in Ballarat demonstrated the opportunities of working in a regional setting.

‘Being able to spend time with patients enables us to provide patient-centred care and it’s quite satisfying knowing you’ve had a positive impact on their overall healthcare experience’, said Ms Gordon.

Future programs

Currently, the RUSON model is offered by a select number of health services including:

  • Monash Health,
  • Alfred Health,
  • Ballarat Health Services,
  • Northern Health,
  • Echuca Health Care, and
  • Peninsula Health.

Positions are advertised through affiliated universities (e.g. Monash Health and Eastern Health recruited through Monash and Deakin universities).

ANMF is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to provide a more coordinated approach with health services and to expand the program.

RUSON pay comparison

RUSON $22.73 Year 1 under public sector EBA
Hospitality $25.28 Restaurant Industry Award 2010 Level 2
– food and beverage attendant grade 2
Retail $25.99 General Retail Industry Award 2010 Level 1
– retail employee
The hourly rate above is a base rate.
RUSONs may be entitled to allowances such as:
– uniform ($1.71 per day)
– laundry ($0.46 per day)
– shift allowance (PM $28.80)
– weekend penalty rates (additional $11.36 per hour)