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Taking nursing to the next level

Zena Coffey is dedicated to good communication.

It could be an episode from any one of the medical drama television shows: a man in cardiac arrest falls out of his car in front of the hospital. But it wasn’t a television show. It was a day in the life of Graduate Nurse of the Year Zena Coffey.

First on the scene, Coffey reassured the patient and called in the triage team. For many, the situation would have been very stressful, but she took it in her stride, just as she does in her job every day.

In palliative care, Coffey worked closely with patients and their families to understand their emotional, physical and social needs so she could provide a higher quality of care.

“Working in palliative care is confronting, difficult and rewarding at the same time,” Coffey, from Austin Health, said. “I talk to patients and families about their spiritual needs. Facilitating important spiritual rituals for patients gives great satisfaction.”

Dedicated to good communication, Coffey has developed innovative ways to communicate effectively with patients from non-English speaking backgrounds and neurology patients struggling with speech. Body language, cue cards and alphabet charts are part of her approach.

When she realised a patient had misunderstood the implications of his surgery, she took time to explain the situation and ensure his consent was genuinely informed.

Coffey always knew she wanted to nurse, spending her teenage years working in a local aged care facility.

Passionate about the evolution and development of nursing practice, she is completing a Bachelor of Nursing (Honours) at La Trobe University and will undertake a research project exploring cardiac rehabilitation in rural settings.

“I am fascinated by the way in which nursing has evolved and want to be a part of taking nursing to the next level.”

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