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Advocate and leader recognised

In a field of outstanding mental health nurses, one award candidate stood above the rest. 

A nurse from Western Australia has been named the Mental Health Nurse of the Year at the 39th International Mental Health Nursing Conference in Perth last month.

Dianne Wynaden, professor of mental health at Curtin University, was recognised with the award, bestowed by the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN), for her commitment to the profession through educational, clinical and advocacy roles.

Widely respected as a leader in mental health throughout the state, Wynaden is also a registered nurse, a credentialed mental health nurse and works two days a week in research consultation positions with Fremantle Hospital and the WA State Forensic Mental Health Service.

She is the second WA nurse to receive the national honour, and says winning the award is a career highlight.

“It’s really exciting to be acknowledged for the work that you’ve done over the years,” she says. “I didn’t realise how excited I would be.”

CEO of ACMHN Kim Ryan says it was hard to single out a winner as the finalists were from a range of clinical and academic settings and all were of an extremely high calibre.

“All finalists were able to provide examples of outstanding activities or accomplishments within a mental health nursing role that exemplifies the ACMHN standards of practice for mental health nursing and reflects the knowledge of mental health nursing theory and practice,” she says.

“In the end, [Dianne’s] dedication, professionalism and a career that traverses education, research and clinical practice made it clear that she was the most exceptional candidate.”

Delighted with the outcome, ACMHN president Wendy Cross said Dianne was a truly worthy recipient of the award.

“She is an exceptional mental health nurse, a great leader and advocate for mental health nursing,” she says. “We are privileged to have a mental health nurse of her stature and capability among us.”

Wynaden, who started her career as a general nurse, originally favoured work in the emergency and theatre departments. When looking to specialise, she chose mental health over midwifery and has never looked back.

“I found that what you said to people was just as important as what you did to them,” she says. “And that the relationships you build with your patients do have a big impact on their recovery ... so that’s what interested me in entering mental health.”

Since completing her PhD in 2003 on the primary carers’ experience of caring for a person with mental illness, Wynaden has had a passion for advocacy for people that “perhaps don’t have a voice”.

Among her many roles, today she is the only nurse on the 13-member Western Australian Mental Health Advisory Council, which provides independent advice to the WA mental health commissioner.

She has been awarded more than $3 million in grants for research work since 2007, which helps her pursue work in areas she is most passionate about: Aboriginal mental health and improving the effectiveness of mental health nurses working in primary care settings.

Commonwealth funds have also allowed her to improve undergraduate and post-graduate programs at Curtin, and she was responsible for developing a new statewide mental health graduate program for the WA Nursing and Midwifery Office.

“Mental health nurses are leaders in the delivery of quality care and it’s exciting to be part of shaping the profession,” she says.

“I could not have won this award without the ongoing support of my colleagues who have all contributed to my achievements throughout my career.”

Established by the ACMHN in 2008, the award recognises the achievements of mental health nurses and promotes the importance of mental health nursing as a specialty.

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