Professor Elaine Duffy says her interests in Indigenous women’s health, building partnerships with health care providers, and the recruitment and retention of health care professionals in rural areas make her “a perfect fit” with Charles Sturt University (CSU).
Professor Duffy is the new Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery within CSU’s Faculty of Science. She says she is “always looking for new challenges”, and her career has taken her half way around the world and back again. She says some health problems are universal.
“Recruitment and retention of rural health professionals is a global problem. Research in Australia and overseas shows that people who leave rural areas to complete their education do tend to come back, so rural origin is a big factor in recruiting health professionals to work in rural areas.
“Another factor is study opportunities, so regional education is vital for recruitment and retention for rural health practitioners.”
NSW also shares with Victoria and Canada a gap in terms of health services for Indigenous women. “I suspect Aboriginal women do not access services easily as there is still evidence of discrimination and racism in health services, as is the case with other Indigenous populations.”
That and women’s health care generally are burning issues for Professor Duffy. “There was a major shift to providing for women’s health in the 1970s, but since then there been some mainstreaming. NSW has retained many women’s health centres and I believe there is great benefit in having specific services for women.
“Whether we are in practice, education, administration or leadership, we all have a role to play in impacting on health care policy and politics,” said Professor Duffy. “For example, if a community does not have adequate health services, and I was approached about it, I would certainly be out there pressuring politicians and local government.”
Professor Duffy’s research of the comparison of rural and urban emergency nursing found that rural patients experienced and valued the personal interaction more than their urban counterparts. “Students have reported a more positive learning experience in rural areas because of the personal interaction.”
CSU’s Dean of the Faculty of Science Professor Mark Burton describes Professor Duffy’s appointment as “magic. In Canada Professor Duffy oversaw multiple campuses and developed the nursing discipline’s research output and skills. She also has a strong interest in Indigenous education. We were just so lucky that this person had experience that matched exactly with what CSU does best.”
With CSU’s emphasis on building community partnerships, Indigenous well-being and training of rural and regional professionals, it is easy to see what drew Professor Duffy here.
“I like to develop the best in people. So that is what I am here to do. A new School of Nursing and Midwifery is a tremendous opportunity to envision where we would like to be in the next five years and actually work towards building a major regional centre for education and research in nursing, midwifery, Indigenous health and rural health service delivery.”