Carlene Hurst is a Mental Health Nurse based in the South Gippsland town of Foster, and is the first endorsed Nurse Practitioner within the locality. As the final step in her higher education studies, Carlene enrolled in a Master of Advanced Nursing Practice (Nurse Practitioner) at Monash University and was able to claim in total $20,000 of her course fees through the Health Workforce Scholarship Program.
Having overcome mental health struggles in her 20s, Carlene has since dedicated her career to helping others experiencing mental health challenges.
“Incidentally, I was born within the local hospital,” Carlene says.
“There is something particularly singular about giving back to a community in a career as challenging as mental health, when you have lived your life mostly with the people you are working with. I consider it to be an immense privilege.”
Foster has a catchment area of up to 8,000 people, swelling to 80,000 in peak tourist seasons due to its proximity to Wilsons Promontory.
Since 2011, Carlene has been working at the Foster and Toora Medical Centres, where there is a great need for clients to receive ‘wrap around’ services for as many health concerns as possible. Carlene provides coordinated clinical care for people facing severe and persistent mental health issues. Seeing five to six clients a day, she helps them work towards their goals and facilitates ongoing case management and communication between their health care team.
With the growing need for mental health services, Carlene began to pursue the nurse practitioner endorsement in 2019 so that she was able to gain more autonomy and able to better support both clients, GPs and the staff at Foster and Toora Medical Centres.
It was recommended by her practice manager that she claim the Health Workforce Scholarship Program which is designed to improve access to health services needed in rural areas by financially supporting rural health professionals to train and upskill.
Having recently completed the course, Carlene feels as though she has shifted up a gear or two in her profession.
“I understand more thoroughly the physical health issues that the client is contending with, plus I have a greater understanding of what else can be offered,” Carlene says.
“I will also be able to request blood tests, refer to psychiatrists and do some of the client scripts for medications.”
Now Carlene is endorsed, she hopes that the community will have greater trust in her ability to work for them and provide the best level of care for her clients.
The Health Workforce Scholarship Program is an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Health administered by RWAV in Victoria.
Are you interested in pursuing professional development opportunities or postgraduate studies? Consider applying for the Health Workforce Scholarship Program. This grant supports health professionals working in private practice in rural and regional Victoria to access up to $10,000 per financial year to train and upskill. Find out more here.