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Mim O’Flynn, Gail Yarran and Veronique Murphy with their awards. Photo: HESTA

Nursing gongs recognise patient advocates, visionaries

People with liver disease in south-east Queensland can access mobile, life-saving treatments, West Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are treated better when accessing health services, and patients with difficulty communicating are able to make their preferences known – all thanks to the work of award-winning nurses.

The 2018 HESTA Australian Nursing & Midwifery Awards held in Melbourne last week recognised the efforts of nurses who have shown leadership in advocating on behalf of their patients for improved access to healthcare while also providing meaningful solutions to overcome the challenges they face.

HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said: “These winners stood out from an exceptional group of finalists for their commitment to improving patient healthcare outcomes, and their work has had a profound impact on the lives of many Australians.”

Doing her bit
Taking out the Nurse of the Year category, Gail Yarran from the Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in East Perth, has established herself as a prominent Aboriginal healthcare leader and nurse ambassador over her 50-year career.

Handing out the award, HESTA noted Yarran’s contribution to improvements in the way Aboriginal people are treated when accessing healthcare and to helping Aboriginal people living across WA to reach health parity.

“I’ve been very passionate about nursing from a young age,” Yarran said. “I remember when I was in school the teacher asked the class ‘what would you like to be when you leave school?', I said I’d like to be a nurse and the whole class laughed and made fun of me. This stuck in my heart and made me more determined, this gave me the passion.”

Yarran said while she’s has been a nurse for over 50 years, she knows she can’t close the gap alone. “But I can do my little part to make a difference.”

She currently works in maternal child health and would like to see better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their babies. The award prize money – each winner receives $10,000 from awards sponsor ME to use for further education or team development – will allow her to explore ways to make antenatal health services more accessible for women.

Treatment free of judgement
HESTA gave the Team Excellence Award to a mobile medical clinic that provides life-saving treatments to people living with hepatitis C across south-east Queensland.

The Kombi Clinic is a one-stop-shop for hepatitis C testing, treatment and information.

Run by a team of health professionals, including outreach fibroscan nurse Mim O’Flynn, the clinic brings medical care directly to people who are most vulnerable.

O’Flynn said the team wants to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030. “Our patients often haven’t spoken to anyone about their hep-C status and we offer them a safe environment and the opportunity to seek treatment free of judgement,” she said. “We go to areas in the community helping people that we’ve identified are of great need – this could be those who are disenfranchised or homeless – and we work in different locations like around alcohol and drug services as well as on the street.”

The Kombi Clinic team will put the prize money towards new technology that allows for point-of-care testing, enabling on-the-spot diagnosis.

The little things
A belief that every person has the potential to positively or negatively influence a patient’s experience is at the heart of Veronique Murphy’s work at Alfred Health in Melbourne.

It led her to designing the ‘patient preferences prompt sheet’ to ensure vital non-clinical information could easily be communicated between staff.

For this, she was awarded HESTA’s Outstanding Graduate award. Murphy said the prompt sheet helps patients with the ‘little things’, making them feel safer and more comfortable while in the medical environment.

“The sheet was designed to help the patients on our ward who can’t communicate properly, whether they are experiencing delirium or have dementia.

“The more we know about the patients, the more easily we can guide them through the times when they’re struggling to communicate,” she said.

Murphy plans to use the prize money to help pay for a Master’s degree in nursing, in addition to funding work experience in under-resourced parts of Australia and the world.

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