“I’VE never worked so hard in my life!” said Foster and Toora Medical Centres’ credentialled mental health nurse Carlene Hurst of the latest addition to her already impressive list of professional nursing qualifications.
Foster-bred and -educated Carlene now holds a Master of Advanced Clinical Nursing – Nurse Practitioner Mental Health degree, extending her sphere of nursing practice and giving her greater scope and depth in the care and treatments she can offer her clients.
This is Carlene’s second Masters, following her first Master of Nursing in 2010, and it entitles her to write prescriptions, request laboratory tests, complete referrals, and issue certificates for Centrelink and for workplace leave within her area of expertise.
Her curriculum vitae also boasts a Bachelor of Nursing gained in 2004, which saw Carlene appointed as South Gippsland Hospital in Foster’s first graduate general nurse in 2005.
Later she undertook a post-graduate course in mental health nursing and a graduate certificate in youth mental health, becoming fully credentialled with the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses in between.
“Given that I am homegrown and working within my community, I’d like this degree to highlight both what I can offer here at the Foster and Toora Medical Centres, as well as what people who live rurally can achieve,” Carlene said.
“I have been so lucky to receive the right support from my workplace and also from Rural Workforce Agency Victoria, which provided a scholarship for the two years of study I did for my second Masters,” she said.
“I never thought I would end up with three degrees, after leaving Foster Secondary College after completing my Victorian Certificate of Education in 1986 with a mediocre ATAR score in the 60s.
“During 1987 I struggled with university and ended up working for Kmart until I came back to Foster in 1999 as a sole parent with my son Nathan who was three at the time,” Carlene said.
“I applied to Monash University in Churchill after completing a bridging course, and Nath started preps when I started my study.
“I began as the first graduate general nurse at SGH after I graduated in 2005.
“I still appreciate the kindness of my colleague and friend Rebecca Chigwidden who supported me mentally to negotiate this year because as it turned out I wasn’t all that suited to general nursing,” she said.
“I wanted to understand why the person was feeling the way they were from a holistic perspective, and not just to only give general nursing care.
“Bec’s keen understanding of how difficult it was for me at times, and how to find the funny side of what was happening, got me, through,” Carlene said.
“Dr David Iser championed me through some mental health challenges of my own in 2008 and 2009, and his unwavering, empathetic support allowed me to start to recognise more clearly my own strengths as I completed my first Master’s degree in Nursing in 2010 allowing me to work as a mental health nurse,” she said.
“The team of doctors at the Foster and Toora Medical Centres, in particular Drs Phil Worboys, Ruyu Yao, Alison Wilde, Owen Casson, David Polmear, Mike Fitzgerald, and Trevor Andrews, took David’s lead, and they all have continued to be supportive as I grew the role to what it currently is.
“Maureen Buckley, the first practice manager when I started there, also added her considerable might to my education, and I learned from her how and why to ‘play a straight bat’, something the current practice manager Heather Byrne has continued,” Carlene said.
“Once I was credentialled as a mental health nurse in 2012 the Medical Centre could utilise federal grants called Mental Health-commissioned services, first through Medicare and then Primary Care Networks, to fund my salary.
“I have been working at FMC for 10 years now and yes, at times it’s such a challenge but on the whole it is an amazing experience and a privilege,” Carlene said.
“My endorsement through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is due any day now and once I have this in place I will be this rural area’s first practicing Nurse Practitioner Mental Health.”
On behalf of his fellow medical colleagues, Dr Phil Worboys said, “we want to congratulate Carlene on obtaining this second Master degree.
“It has been a very difficult and arduous course, which she has squeezed into an already busy professional life,” he said.
“We all think that Carlene has been an effective advocate and therapist for the under-represented socially and mentally disadvantaged citizens of the Corner Inlet district.
“We know, too, that this new qualification will only enable her to manage and help these people even further,” Dr Phil said.
“We’re so proud of what Carlene has achieved and for what lies ahead.”