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Top 5 inspiring choices

The results are in for Nursing Review’s Top 5 Inspirational Nurses poll for 2013: this is who you voted for. 

The researcher: Karen-leigh Edward wants to get more nurses doing hands-on research

Name: Karen-leigh Edward
Position: Director of the Nursing Research Unit
Works at: St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne
Nursing career: 30 years

Recognised internationally for her expertise in the mental healthcare and nursing practice arena, Associate Professor Karen-leigh Edward has a strong background in both research and clinical practice.

Karen-leigh initially trained as a nurse in mental health; then she completed her general nurse training and a three-year psychology degree before moving back into the nursing field.

In 2004 she started teaching at the Australian Catholic University (ACU), and became an active researcher in 2007 after completing her PhD. It is a passion for research that pushed her into the position she holds today – a joint appointment between ACU and St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne (SVPH).

Described by a colleague as making a vital contribution to the base of knowledge that both guides and drives the nursing profession, Karen-leigh continues to inspire nurses to lead health research, winning Catholic Health Australia’s national Emerging Leader award in 2012.

“Given that nurses are 80 per cent of the global healthcare workforce,” she says, “there is a lot of momentum that we can bring to the table in terms of our influence on the patient journey and clinical outcomes.”

Under Karen-leigh’s leadership, the Nursing Research Unit at SVPH has developed ward-based and coordinated best-practice groups across three of its campuses, and has facilitated research outreach ward seminars, which have been delivered to 450 out of 1100 nurses and midwives in 18 months.

Karen-leigh has also developed a unique learning position: the research internship, which gives nurses the opportunity to be part of a research project.

“To have on their résumé they have had a research internship means they have been mentored by a senior researcher on a project, and that they have contributed to publications, conference presentations and the like,” she says.

Big on empowering nurses to do work for themselves, Karen-leigh believes now is an exciting time for the nursing profession, with a huge rise in doctorally prepared and master’s-qualified nurses.

Since she started there two-and-a-half years ago, Karen-leigh has raised the profile of the research unit dramatically. In 2011, there were four interns; this year there are 32.

“We prepare our nurses to be able to understand research and perhaps translate that research into practice – there is just not enough time in a three-year degree to teach nurses how to lead research.

“This is something I am really driven about – helping nurses to lead research so that we can try to answer clinical questions on a daily basis.”

Karen-leigh has authored and edited several books, one of which – Mental Health Nursing: Dimensions of Praxis – won the Tertiary (Wholly Australian) Teaching and Learning category at the 2011 Australian Publishers Association Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing.

The entrepreneur: Natalie Bossong had to create a business to follow her calling

Name: Natalie Bossong
Position: Director
Works at: Clear Ears
Nursing career: 8 years

When Natalie stumbled across an opening for an aural care nurse specialist during her time working in the UK at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, she jumped on the opportunity to enter the field.

Upon return to Australia, however, her career in aural care faltered: the role she’d had in the UK didn’t exist in Australia’s public health system. There was a private clinic run by a fellow nurse, but there were no job opportunities at the time.

Natalie went on to complete a postgraduate degree in perioperative nursing, but that nagging desire to work in aural care returned – and Natalie realised it was up to her to go out and make her dream a reality.

She approached Meg Bumpstead – a woman with extensive management and business experience in the healthcare sector – about setting up their own business. From this partnership, the Melbourne-based Clear Ears was born.

“Starting the business has allowed us to provide the service of removal of ear wax by the technique of microsuction and curettage,” Natalie explains. “It is a service that is already provided within Australia by ear, nose and throat specialists, but very few nurses.”

The founding of Clear Ears has not only allowed Natalie to practise through her UK Certificate in Aural Care, but she has also gone on to rewrite the course (with permission) to Australian standards to create a new career pathway for our nurses. This version of the course has been accredited through the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority for five years.

Natalie is thrilled about being able to continue in the field she is so passionate about.

“I think if any nurse sees a potential service that is within their scope of practice and beneficial to patients, they should definitely go ahead and give it a go,” she says. “Get advice as to whether it is suitable; you really never know until you give it a try. For me it was two years that I was back before [Meg] and I did all the research and decided to open the business.”

Today, Natalie’s training enables her to volunteer annually for the AusAid and Royal College of Surgeons Pacific islands program, which sends ENT nurses to Vanuatu to provide surgical interventions and education to local communities.

She volunteers for the program as a scrub nurse for ENT, which she also does part-time when at home, at Cabrini Hospital in south-east Melbourne.

Natalie says that as part of her volunteer work she will be providing the Clear Ears course to Vanuatu nurses, hoping to improve the service delivery of aural care.
The counsellor: Brigid Hanley understands nurses’ vital role in helping patients cope with bad news

Name: Brigid Hanley
Position: Nurse counsellor
Works at: Cancer Council Queensland
Nursing career: 30 years

Celebrating her 30th anniversary as a nurse this year, Brigid Hanley has dedicated her time, knowledge, skills and passion to helping patients through the emotional and practical effects of a diagnosis of cancer.

Brigid discovered her true passion early in her career when employed at the Prince Charles Hospital. She worked in the thoracic oncology unit, which had a component of general thoracic and palliative care.

Surrounded by what she describes as “an amazing group of energetic nurses”, Brigid realised their true impact in this field – supporting people through one of the most stressful times in their lives.

“Nurses are ideally placed to support and empower people through that process,” she says.

Brigid has now been with the Cancer Council Queensland (CCQ) for 20 years, during which time she has gained a reputation for being a great innovator and educator. In 1996, Brigid was instrumental in the launch of CCQ’s Cancer Helpline – a toll-free service for anyone in Queensland with a question about cancer.

She has taken on a variety of roles since then, but today splits her time between her research role at The Viertel Centre for Research in Cancer Control and the training and supervision of Cancer Helpline staff.

She has worked on a number of research programs during her time at the centre, most recently a randomised controlled trial of multimodal supportive care intervention for men recently diagnosed with localised prostate cancer. The Living with Prostate Cancer study uses both self-management and tele-based group peer support to improve care, physical activity levels and overall wellbeing of patients.

Brigid trains the helpline staff on the psychosocial impact of cancer, distress screening, problem-solving, suicide assessment, risk management and decision support.

Twenty years on, making a difference is still a strong motivator for this extremely humble nurse.

“I always reflect on how what I am doing is making a difference to the lives and people affected by cancer,” she says. “It’s what drives me to do what I do.

“People have the most amazing ability to cope with outstanding life events – so for me it’s a privilege to talk to people and just listen to how they deal with this challenge in life.

“If then I can add to that, empower them, or get them to add something else to how they are coping – then that’s an enormous privilege.”

The advocate: Fiona Newall is keen for the public to really understand the value of nurses

Name: Fiona Newall
Position: Director of nursing research
Works at: Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne
Nursing career: 15 years

A renowned advocate for nurses, Professor Fiona Newall is dedicated to improving the professionalism and professional development opportunities of nurses at the Royal Children’s Hospital.

By providing targeted mentoring, tailored academic advice and support for improvement projects in patient care, Fiona has become what colleagues describe as a “great mentor, leader and example” to nurses.

Like many great leaders, Fiona has had her own mentors from early in her career. She says Professor Paul Monagle and Professor Linda Johnston had a significant impact.

“They provided me with opportunities to merge academic development and clinical development, which doesn’t often happen in nursing,” Fiona says. “They enabled me to take on research that both improved patient care and gave me career opportunities.”

Today, Fiona is the mentor, encouraging nurses to realise the difference they can make in the world of healthcare.

“Nurses are best able to speak to the contribution we make to patient care; we probably just need to get smarter and more tailored in how we present [our case] to the public.

“This happens through better understanding what we do and the outcomes of the work we do, so where we are speaking to the public, we have the hard facts to back up our contribution and promote nursing.

“The public loves nurses, but we want to move beyond that to make them respect the value we add to the patient journey.”

Describing her own leadership style as “personalised”, Fiona says there is no one-size-fits-all approach to helping people progress in their careers. But she says leading by example is a good place to start.

Fiona works in haematology one day a week, caring for children with blood clotting disorders, and she says that this ongoing clinical work provides her with a “wonderful opportunity” to measure the outcomes of programs put in place at the hospital. “Rather than just telling people what to do as an academic or researcher, you actually model it,” she says.

Having access to senior nurses across the streams of research, clinical care, education and management is really important, she says, in helping nurses navigate their path of professional development.


The rural educator: Robert Timmings believes remote area nurses should have equal education opportunities

Name: Robert Timmings
Position: Nurse educator
Works at: The Cunningham Centre
Nursing career: 26 years

If we really do learn from experience, then there is a lot to be learnt from nurse educator Robert Timmings.

Rob spent most of his earlier years as an emergency nurse, before cutting his teeth on education at the Australian College of Emergency Nursing, where he taught the trauma nursing core course throughout Australia and New Zealand.

He fell in love with rural and remote nursing in Quilpie, a small town 1000km west of Brisbane. He spent two years in nursing there from 2002 to 2004, working in a ten-bed hospital.

In 2011, Rob did a five-month stint as the sole nurse – with no other medical support – on a tiny island in the far north Torres Strait. He shared his experiences on a blog, Timmo Goes Over the Top.

Rob now works as a nurse educator for The Cunningham Centre, Queensland Health’s largest registered training organisation. He also provides private education through his business,

ECT4Health Pty Ltd. He offers training, workshops and courses in the areas of trauma nursing and cardiac and respiratory monitoring, as well as writing programs for organisations including Ausmed and the University of Queensland.

He is a strong advocate for delivering education to remote and rural areas, as opportunities for nurses based in these locations are few and far between.

“The scourge of distance has always been a big issue for nurses that work in the bush,” he says.

“It’s hard to get to the big locations where nurse education is in abundance and you can have access to classes at any time of the day or night.”

Through his work for Queensland Health, Rob has been able to set up two-day and three-day workshops in regional centres such as Charleville, Longreach and Cairns – which are much more accessible to nurses in those areas.

Rob is also passionate about keeping his hands-on nursing experience up to date.

“There are dedicated nurse education professionals working in academic environments who have no reality about what is going on at the coalface,” he says, “and if they were to walk into a ward tomorrow, they would be completely lost.

“When I stand up in front of a classroom next week to teach trauma in Cairns, I need to be able to tell them about experiences that have occurred in the last 12 to 24 months.”

Describing his teaching as dynamic and in-your-face – as well as full of double entendres – Rob never just stands at the front of the classroom, and cringes at the thought of using notes.

“I make many jokes; I use a lot of theatrics and humorous stories from the clinical environment to highlight points,” he says.

“I have an enjoyable, fun style of teaching where nurses have a good time as well as learning something.”

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