We interview Associate Professor Judith Anderson about her career in rural nursing and research. Judith has a 20-year history of working as a Registered Nurse in rural areas. The majority of this time was spent in multi-purpose services and aged care, where she worked in several roles both clinical and managerial. This work has led to an interest in aged care, rural health, emergency care and community development.

This led to research related to multi-purpose services, palliative care, primary health care and education and a move into nursing education. Judith has taught undergraduate and postgraduate nursing for several years, with a focus on primary health care, chronic care, aged care and health service management. She has two daughters and a 12-year-old German Shepherd!

Intro and Rural Nursing

Take us through your career path to date!

I worked as an AIN and completed the EN course (in Queensland), then I took 6 years to complete my Bachelor of Nursing (in NSW). I began working as an RN at Blayney District Hospital and was the Acting Health Service Manager when it became a multi-purpose health service. I moved into academia but after a few years felt that I was losing touch with nursing, so managed an aged care home for a couple of years before returning to academia.


Why did you choose to go rural throughout your career?

As a small child I lived in the western suburbs of Sydney. We moved to Mudgee and I loved it there. To me, rural areas are the best part of Australia and I can’t imagine why people would want to live in the city. Rural people are very friendly and welcoming. They don’t get many health workers and they really appreciate the ones they do get. Rural nurses are amazing, they deal with such a variety of work and do it so well.

Nursing Professor and Educator

What does your role now involve as an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences at Charles Sturt University?

I teach into the undergraduate and postgraduate nursing program and into the health management and leadership program. I support other academics to provide the best education that we can. I am involved in some research – at this stage mostly into aged care and nursing education. I’m in this role mostly due to my love of learning, which translates to some extent into helping others to learn.

As an educator, how did/are you overcoming the challenges that COVID-19 has brought regarding teaching nursing students?

At CSU we have often taught online, so even though our face to face classes were cancelled, many were able to be easily put online. Of course, there are some things that you cannot learn online, those classes have had to be delayed as have some clinical placements.

Black Friday

You’ve led the development of a BN program. What did that involve?

Reviewing the old program to see what was good and what could be improved. Getting a sense of what had changed and needed to be included and lots of mapping to make sure that everything flowed and that nothing was overlooked.

Primary Health Care and Aged Care

What does corrections health involve and how can nurses move into this area?

Corrections health provides a lot of care that is quite similar to what you would find in the community. There is a strong focus on mental health and support for people who have addictions. They often advertise and require casual nurses as much as other facilities do, so applying for a casual position is probably the best way to see if you like it. Educational preparation can vary depending on where you work, but mental health would be a good place to start.

COVID-19 has brought to light many holes in the aged care system. What are your views on these issues?

Much of the care provided in aged care is by an unregulated workforce. These staff are paid minimal amounts but are almost always very caring individuals. Increased remuneration and education for this workforce would be a great place to start addressing the holes you mention.

Why should nurses consider a career in aged care?

Aged care is very fulfilling. Not only do you have a chance to help people but many of those people stay for a long time, you get a chance to build friendships with them that makes nursing in aged care very different to most other nursing.

Research and Academia

What is multi-purpose service development and why did you choose this for your PhD?

When I was working at Blayney, it was a small district hospital. Seeing it being redeveloped as a multi-purpose service which combines Commonwealth and State Funding made me very aware of the benefits for this model of care in rural areas. The Commonwealth usually fund aged care and the State usually fund acute services. In many small rural areas, neither is big enough to be funded as a stand alone organisation, so the multi-purpose model allows those services to be combined to provide a greater range of services to small communities.

Tell us about your research background and your key findings?

My research reflects rural nursing – it is diverse. It ranges from staff satisfaction, through First Nations issues and end of life care. Key findings are often that rural areas are not as well supported as metropolitan and that small communities are very caring and supportive.

One of your most recent articles focuses around the racial discrimination of black sub-Saharan overseas qualified nurses working in rural Australia.

Sophia Dywili was the lead author on that paper which was generated from her PhD. She found that racial discrimination was common, not only within the workforce but also by the patients. There was strong evidence to show that nurse managers should take a more active role in preventing it and dealing with it, but many nurses who witnessed it did not speak up for the nurses being discriminated against – that would be the best thing that nurses could do to look after their peers.

How has your Master of Health Service Management been beneficial to the advancement of your career?

The Master of Health Service Management allowed me to get management positions that would not otherwise have been available. I love learning and would always encourage other nurses to study. It is amazing how much things change and how much there is to learn in order to provide better care to patients.


How does clinical nursing compare to the management side?

I love clinical nursing. It is so rewarding to help someone. Management is not quite as good, but I feel that we need nurses in management, because we are the ones that know and understand what is happening with patients and that gives us insight into the effect that decisions will have. I know that when I am a manager I have a bit more say in what is happening and I can help to look after nurses who don’t have a voice otherwise.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

I see myself teaching the next generation of nurses. I think that nursing is a great career and I look forward to contributing to help others to enjoy it as much as I do.

What advice do you have for nurses and nursing students on having a successful career?

Keep an open mind – there is always more to learn.