Betty M. Andersen, Innovative Nursing Educator

Missionary, nurse, midwife, and nurse educator, Betty Anderson modelled both the best of nursing’s origins, and the practice-based and evidentiary orientations towards its future. As a missionary in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), her nursing was worked out in places where practitioners always had to deal with novel situations. The majority world, rural hospital setting left her considering the relevance of her first world training. ‘To achieve relevance demanded a new approach involving contextual analysis in search of relevance.’

She upgraded her nursing certificates to a Nurse Education Diploma, and then a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her involvement in the Combined Degree General Nurse Training Course involving Prince Henry Hospital and UNSW gave her the opportunity to design and innovate within a course development framework. Masters-level study in Education and further research led her to believe that ‘problem-based learning’ provided the flexibility needed to continuously reappraise practice and appropriate learning strategies for competent practice.

In 1977, she became head of the Department for Nursing Education at Newcastle College of Advanced Education, specialising in delivering a teaching Diploma for registered nurses. At the same time as PBL was being introduced into the new Medical Faculty at the University of Newcastle, she developed both entry-level and Graduate nursing programs, which provided the frameworks for nurse education at Hunter and Macarthur Institutes of Higher Education. (Her two=year research program was specifically focused on providing evidence to support the new degree programs adopted when Nursing entered the tertiary sector in 1984.) Shortly afterwards, she transferred back to Sydney as the Dean of Macarthur IHE’s faculty of Nursing. Andersen’s ‘roles and functions’ model influenced national nursing practice in Australia, and in 1986 she was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) for her service to nursing education. As Macarthur IHE moved towards university status, Anderson led the faculty in incorporating the research element of their PBL approaches into the Problem Based Learning, Assessment and Research Centre (PROBLARC):

The Centre gained wide recognition for its quality work programmes among a wide audience of action-based professions. Senior staff members were frequently involved in sharing their expertise, and the theoretical based principles of our version of Practice-Based Learning and how to adapt and apply it – not only in Australia but in a number of overseas learning centres. My own PBL consulting continued for a few years in Indonesia after retirement under the auspices of the World Health Organisation. (Andersen, Interview, University of Newcastle)