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Leading change in WA

Amie Larter speaks to the head of the school of nursing and midwifery at Edith Cowan University, Professor Di Twigg

What first prompted your choice for a career in nursing?

I spent a weekend with a high school friend. Her grandmother was unwell and being cared for by the family. I become involved in the care and decided at that point I wanted to be a nurse. I was 15 years old at the time and have never regretted that decision.

What is your professional experience leading up to your current role?

My career has been primarily played out in hospitals and the delivery of acute care health services.

I obtained post graduate qualifications in midwifery, operating room nursing and then, as I became more involved in leadership roles, I completed a Master's of Business Administration.

I spent 13 1/2 years as executive director of nursing services at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and it was wonderful to see Charlies, as it is affectionately known, receive recognition of nursing excellence through the Magnet Recognition Program in 2009, the first to do so in WA and only the second in Australia.

In 2005, I embarked on a PhD, examining nurse staffing and patient safety. It was my passion for research about nurses' contribution to high quality care and better health outcomes that led me to accept a Professor of Nursing position at Edith Cowan University, Perth in 2010 and I also became head of school.

What does your current role involve?

As head of school I provide academic and strategic leadership, to lead and manage the planning, development, delivery and review of the school's academic programs, including teaching, research and professional and community engagement. We work closely with our healthcare partners to achieve common objectives and inform our research and teaching and learning.

As a professor of nursing I lead a program of research focusing on nurses' contribution to high quality care and better health outcomes, nurse retention and positive practice environments. I also have a role in fostering excellence in research and working closely with clinical facilities to identify research opportunities and mentor staff and clinicians to develop research projects.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

I love having the privilege of being able to set directions and lead change, whether it is presenting the latest research about achieving better health outcomes through getting nurse staffing right or working with academic staff to enhance our teaching and research outcomes, to make a difference.

Given Health Workforce Australia's predictions about nurse shortages, what are your suggestions for growing and retaining a comprehensive nurse workforce?

We know if we can improve retention of nurses we can reduce the nursing shortage significantly and achieve better health outcomes.

We need a focus on creating positive practice environments that enhance professional practice and allow nurses and midwives to do their jobs well. We also need to examine existing models of care and then staffing to look at how we might deliver care more effectively.

What policy changes need to be made to ensure this happens?

We need a funding system that rewards those health services who do invest in the practice environment and retain their nurses. We also need the evidence about staffing for good health outcomes to influence policy directions and workforce planning.

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