How a postgraduate course can help improve patient outcomes

Further study can equip healthcare professionals with the tools they need to deliver better care.

Between 2007 and 2017, higher education enrolments in healthcare courses increased 92 per cent, according to the 2019 Australian Jobs report. In a growing jobs market, 61 per cent of Australia’s working-age population now holds a post-school qualification - up significantly from 39 per cent 30 years ago. This means employment in the healthcare sector has become far more competitive - so there’s never been more need for an edge.

Further study can help healthcare professionals stand out, specialise, improve their communication and leadership skills, and give you the interdisciplinary knowledge you need to achieve the best outcomes for your patients.

“The reason I specialised in emergency nursing was to provide care to people at their time of crisis,” says Tabatha O'Sullivan-Kirchner, an alumna of the Graduate Certificate in Critical Care Nursing (Emergency) at the University of Melbourne.

After initially studying to be a paramedic, Tabatha decided to continue her education at the University of Melbourne to progress her career to the emergency department at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

No two days on the emergency ward are the same, she says, and working with critical patients demands quick thinking and excellent problem-solving skills. During her course she learnt how to communicate the most effectively with colleagues and patients, and how to adapt to any scenario with a cool head and confidence.

“I use the knowledge and clinical skills that I've learned in the course to be able to provide better care for my patients," says Tabatha. "Now I have the opportunity to be able to work with more complex patient situations, and people that are more unwell than what I originally was able to manage by myself.”

Improving patient outcomes requires a breadth of skills, of which continuing patient care is one of the most important. According to the Health Management Organisation in the US, a key way to ensure the best outcome is to also ensure proper, reliable care and support, even after discharge.

Linda, a mental health nurse who studied advanced clinical nursing and mental health at the University of Melbourne, says the best part of her job is seeing patients in recovery.

“Watching families embrace and support each other, and watching young people embrace their mental illness and recover, is really what drives me,” she says. “I love seeing people return to their social lives, reconnect with their families and their peers. This might not be an area of nursing where you get too many flowers and gifts, but the real reward is seeing somebody recover.”

Linda had an 18-year career between her first postgraduate degree and her masters, and found that returning to study gave her skills advantages, a strong network of peers and mentors, and confidence.

“As you study at this level, you learn to work to make change,” she says. “It’s a real help to explore your options for further study, because what you learn really helps your clinical practice, so you can do a better job every day.”

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