Fiona Currie has done many things in her long career. For over 33 years she has worked as a general nurse, midwife, intensive care nurse and now on the acute ward at Cobram District Health. But a few years ago she undertook even more study to become a RIPERN. Standing for Rural and Isolated Practice Endorsed Registered Nurse, Fiona was one of three nurses at Cobram District Health to undertake this training along with Genevieve Nielsen and Catherine Kelly. The RIPERN qualification seeks to address the shortage of doctors in rural areas by training senior nurses to fill some of the simpler medical diagnosis and treatment roles. It allows Fiona to assess patients and to obtain and supply medication without the direct presence of a doctor for a defined number of conditions. It has also given her a chance to grow in confidence, developing her skills and autonomy.

The RIPERN Program was a team effort by Cobram District Health to up-skill their senior nurses, with Kaye Ervin, our resident academic from the University of Melbourne Dept of Rural Health playing the vital role of academic mentor, helping them to brush up on their research skills. The doctors from the our Medical Clinic took time out of their busy schedules to train and advise them. But most importantly the end result has been better access for patients to timely, safe and appropriate care. And as Fiona says, “Often times someone will present at the Urgent Care Centre with a chest infection or a urinary tract infection or tooth abscess. Rather than sit there for hours while we get the on-call doctor to attend, I can treat the patient and have them home in bed getting better, sooner. We do always encourage them to follow up with their GP the next day.”