Dareton is a small town of around 500 people in far-west New South Wales, right on the Victorian border. Danielle White works as a nursing academic in Dareton. She is employed by the University of Sydney, through the Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health (UDRH), and in partnership with Monash University through the Sunraysia Collaboration.
Dareton is part of the Wentworth Shire and the area holds a special place in Danielle’s heart. Her family has lived here for three generations.
‘I have lived in the region since I was a little girl and always wanted to be a nurse. I studied my Bachelor of Nursing in Adelaide and stayed there for a couple of years to work. But, for me, it was about coming back home.’
Like many rural health professionals, Danielle has experienced a rich variety of opportunities. She worked on the children’s ward at the local hospital and as an after-hours coordinator. She also worked as a school nurse and a homecare nurse. Then she found her true passion in mentoring the new generation of rural nurses.
Danielle is part of a team that lets nursing students experience a rural and remote placement. The aim is for students to see the benefits of working in a rural and remote location.
‘I love the perspective, energy and enjoyment that students bring,’ she says. ‘Being able to work with the future workforce is a privileged position to have.’
The average placement is six weeks, which gives students time to immerse themselves in the local area.
‘We meet the students in a small community of less than 500 people. Then we drive over the wide expanse of the Murray River to a regional city of 35,000 and they see Kmart or Bunnings and get excited!’
Working in a rural community gives students a widened scope of practice. They see people with a range of health conditions and learn to connect with many different people in the community.
‘Working in a rural community, you know the residents and you see them up the street, at the supermarket, or out for tea. You have a responsibility to the community that you know, but you are also well-respected because of the work that you do.’
Students are not currently entering the region due to COVID-19, but the team continues to support local students in the interim.
Danielle is also a strong advocate for the benefits of collaboration in rural communities. For the past four years, she has facilitated an interagency group that looks at the social determinants of health. The group includes representatives from the local council, health sector, police, schools and other support agencies.
‘We wanted to widen it and not just be focused on health, but be more community-focused.’
The history of cooperation in Wentworth has helped to lay the foundation for other initiatives, such as the Collaborative Care Program which is addressing primary health access in the Wentworth Shire.
Mark Muchiri from NSW Rural Doctors Network is part of the Collaborative Care initiative in Wentworth and believes the contribution of local champions like Danielle White can’t be underestimated.
‘Danielle would be the first to say rural health is a team sport,’ Mark says. ’But the student nurse placements and the Wentworth Interagency Group are important initiatives that should be celebrated. Danielle White is one of those people who has put her heart and soul into supporting the rural health workforce.’