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Claire O’Connor in Australia
Claire O’Connor learned about the Australian healthcare system, the workings of its universal healthcare system and how the nursing shortage is affecting healthcare.

International nursing scholar

Photos courtesy of Claire O’Connor

Nursing student Claire O’Connor joins International Scholar Laureate Program delegation

As soon as her finals ended last spring, junior nursing student Claire O’Connor packed her bags and embarked on a journey of a lifetime to Australia.

O’Connor was invited to join the International Scholar Laureate Program Delegation on Nursing & Health Care in Australia. Through this program, she learned about the Aussie approach of nursing and healthcare. As part of a contingent of undergraduate students from across United States and Canada, O’Connor, the lone UD representative, was anxious yet excited to see what a down under experience would bring.

After an exhausting 22-hour flight, O’Connor landed in Sydney, where she stayed for the first leg of her studies. The program kicked off with a guest speaker from the Australian Nursing Federation who gave an introduction to the Australian healthcare system, the workings of its universal healthcare system and how the nursing shortage is affecting healthcare. The group had a chance to tour Royal Price Alfred Hospital, where nurses discussed the daily life in midwifery and nursing.

O’Connor’s favorite city was Brisbane, which provided a deeper dive into midwifery and nursing traditions. She found Brisbane to be far more similar to U.S. healthcare in the use of digital records than the hospital in Sydney; she saw similarities in healthcare practices, as well. Brisbane is also home to a major base of the Royal Flying Doctors (RFDS), an emergency aeromedical care service that provides aid to those located in remote locations. O’Connor described this service as a dream job.

“They are prepared to fly out at any time of the day and almost any weather,” O’Connor said. “Each plane is set up in the same exact way, so no matter where you are in Australia and you board a RFDS plane you know exactly which medicine is in each drawer.”

Furthermore, the RFDS has complete control in the skies. The aeromedical organization has the power to redirect commercial flights to fly a different path, so planes are able to get to the appropriate hospital.

“One of the stories that a doctor shared was that she had a young aboriginal male on her flight and she performed CPR on the patient for over an hour because she kept getting a blood pressure from her compressions,” O’Connor said.

The final destination of the trip was to Cairns, where the nursing students learned about the aboriginal culture.

“One thing that really stuck out to me about aboriginals was they keep the secrets of bush medicine quite close to their vest because they don’t want Australians taking anymore advantage of them than they already have,”  O’Connor said.

The time in Australia was simply not enough for O’Connor. Upon graduating from the University of Delaware in 2019, she hopes to return to Australia to provide services to those in need.

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