Indigenous registered nurse and midwife Kim Henschke has made it her mission to encourage other Indigenous people to take up a career in health.
The USQ alumna and Primary Health Centre Manager who works on the Tiwi Islands is passionate about her people and believes increasing the number of Indigenous health professionals would boost health outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“At an early age I noticed a difference in health outcomes and the lack of health care access that Indigenous people received,” she said.
“I also noticed during my training and nursing education the lack of Indigenous nursing students and how this was contributing to poor health outcomes.”
A descendant of the Waanyi and Butchulla people, the mother of five and grandmother of six graduated from USQ last month with a Master of Science (Research).
Her research topic was on the experiences of Indigenous nursing students at a tertiary institution, which is of major significance due to the need to build an Indigenous healthcare workforce for the future.
Mrs Henschke said the aim of the study was to improve the education experiences of Indigenous nursing students by identifying strategies to improve retention and completion rates to ensure there are enough Indigenous health care workers for the future.
“Approximately only one third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students complete nursing degrees, compared with two-thirds of non-Indigenous students,” she said.
“My study allowed me to gain insight into the experiences of Indigenous nursing students with the aim of identifying strategies to improve retention and completion rates.”
Mrs Henschke started her degree in 2013, but relocated to the Northern Territory the following year to work as a remote area nurse and midwife in the Arnhem Land community of Ramingining.
She continued her studies via distance education and faced several challenges, but her determination to succeed at university and gain a greater knowledge to be able to make a difference for Indigenous people played a vital role in completing her degree.
“The hardest thing was having no access to internet or phone at home,” she said.
“I had to stay after work to complete tasks or do research, and on a few occasions I took holidays to Brisbane to study and interview participants.”
This commitment to educational excellence saw Mrs Henschke become the first research graduate from USQ’s School of Health and Wellbeing.
“The support from her and the other academics at USQ Ipswich was really encouraging and gave me the confidence to finish my studies.”
Mrs Henschke now holds two university qualifications from USQ – a Graduate Diploma of Health (Rural and Remote Health) and her recent Master of Science (Research).
She currently works as the Primary Health Centre Manager at the Julanimawu Health Centre where her research has already made a positive impact.
“I feel equipped to tackle anything with the knowledge I have gained to improve policy-making and looking at strategies to best support Indigenous men and women who would like to attend tertiary study,” she said.
To learn more about studying at USQ, visit Study.