Nursing is a journey: A profile of an agricultural health clinician

By Rosi Bear, RN – Northern District Health Service VIC

Nurses are vital to the community. A career in nursing can be challenging, while also rewarding as it involves helping sick individuals become healthy again. Developing our knowledge, skills & experience over time means we can work in many and varied environments. This also allows us to have the opportunity to work flexible hours.

Each nurse’s journey is unique. A caring & empathetic nature is common and nursing soon becomes part of your being.

It is caring for people when they are vulnerable and involves educating individuals to achieve health & wellbeing, empowering them to have control of their personal journey.

I was in the first intake of University trained nurses at Warrnambool Institute of advanced Education which later became Deakin University. I studied for 18 months, qualified as a State Enrolled Nurse – now known as Registered Nurse Division 2. I then deferred and commenced my practical nursing career at Hamilton Base Hospital on Fitzgerald wing, a surgical ward.

At 21 I travelled to the UK, I enjoyed agency nursing in London and also worked as a Nanny out in the country – the families I worked with valued & were comforted with my  nursing qualification & knowledge.

Returning to Australia in 1991, I worked as an agency nurse in many hospitals & nursing homes around Melbourne. This grew and embedded my medical & pharmacology knowledge. During this time, I developed sound nursing and communication skills. Here I learnt to work as a team member and adapt quickly to changing environments & circumstances. I soon returned to Deakin University where I completed my Bachelor of Nursing and registered as a Division 1 Nurse. My graduate year was at Wimmera Base Hospital in Horsham. This was a wonderful 12 months with rotations & experience in Surgical, Theatre, A&E and Renal Dialysis.

A country girl, I met and married a country boy. I was welcomed into a family farming business in Northern Victoria but I have always wished to continue nursing; it is part of my being & my identity.

I am a partner in our sheep grazing business and unlike many, we have had a smooth succession to our generation. Whilst I don’t work actively in the business; however, I do work actively on the business. As a nurse we have policies written in relation to health & safety for individuals and various workplace practices & procedure, e.g. If forecast over 38oC then inside between 11-3pm. Wearing PPE when using Chemicals, tools, implements or machinery etc.

When our children were small I had a yearning to work in Community Nursing. An opportunity opened and I was welcomed into District / Domiciliary nursing at our local hospital. I was now developing my knowledge of Community Support Services to clients needing support whilst living at home. In community health, I now work with people from different cultural backgrounds, often with disadvantaged and marginalised people.

In partnership with the local community, I work to prevent illness and promote health across the lifespan by identifying barriers to healthy lifestyles and general wellness. I work with families and communities to empower individuals accessing care to change unhealthy lifestyles and provide post-acute care to people in their homes.

It is important to be able to assume responsibility and a leadership role, take initiative in emergencies, have strong communication skills, work autonomously and as part of a team, maintain patience and discretion when providing health care.

In community health we provide an interpretative bridge between the acute sector and community services. We embrace a social model of health to advocate and give a voice to the community accessing health care. In a system which is often complex and hard to navigate, we as community health nurses are able to simplify the health systems, referral pathways and access to care.

I work in an interdisciplinary team which can include, but is not limited to, mental health nurses, podiatrists, general practitioners, psychologists, women’s health nurses, Aboriginal health workers, allied health and hospital services. As a nurse my skills have also been valued in case management roles with Aged care and disability services…. such a diverse journey a nurse can have.

Nursing, an interest in health and farming life is my being. Not actively working in our agricultural family farming business, I wanted to  use my breadth of knowledge and skills  built over the last 25 years to educate & empower our farmers about their health.

Then I found the National Centre For Farmer Health (NCFH). Our local community had been suffering a lot of adversity with drought, political water war-fare leading to reduced or no irrigation water allocation, poor commodity prices in some sectors and associated mental health issues to many families. This ripple effect has affected many businesses within our community as they rely on the agricultural sector.

I applied for & completed the unit HMF 701 Agricultural Health & Medicine through Deakin University in partnership with NCFH.  Also very fortunate to have a supportive employer, Northern District Community Health who could recognise the need to be able to offer this specific agricultural health service to our community. I studied Agricultural Health & Medicine with the intent to becoming an AgriSafe Clinician in my local area in Northern Victoria. I now feel comforted that I can use my extended nursing knowledge to contribute & support our agricultural and farming sector.

I now look forward to delivering the Primary Prevention and health awareness program to our agricultural community. If health is compromised it can affect your family and business.

By educating our farmers they can improve their health, wellbeing and safety to be able to get the most out of their life and fulfil their farming business’s potential. Health is a person’s number 1 asset.

May my journey continue with my passion for health and farming….

Important Information

Applications are now open for the Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Health and Medicine. For more information:

or contact

Dr Jacquie Cotton
Unit Chair
03 5551 8585.