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Young nurse launches support network for peers

Brisbane-based woman founds organisation to keep the innovation and vitality of younger staff in the fold. 

Out of frustration over the lack of support for young staff, a Brisbane-based woman has established the Young Nurses Association.

Nurse Emmy-Lou Hamley founded the organisation last year, and recently caught the attention of the Foundation for Young Australians, who selected her for the 2015 Young Social Pioneers program – a six-month accelerator for 50 young Australian social entrepreneurs.

Hamley says she founded the Young Nurses Association out of what she called “a need in young nurses’ experiences”, and hopes the organisation will be a support network.

“I was really young when I got into nursing. I was about 17,” Hamley says. “I did enrolled nursing firstly and I was doing night shifts for this small hospital in Brisbane and I was dealing with people dying, people going through horrible diagnoses.

“I was a 17- to 18-year-old and I had no one to talk to about it. I did a lot of research to see what existed and there’s nothing. Not one bit of support for new and young nurses in this profession.”

As Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics show, almost 40 per cent of Australian nurses are aged 50 years or older, and it will be younger nurses who take up the reins of the industry. But Hamley says due to the lack of support for younger nurses, 65 per cent of all nursing graduates leave the industry in their first year.

“I remember a gentleman who was having a quadruple bypass the next day,” she says. “I’d done everything I needed to do for him, I ticked off my little tasks and I looked at him over the nurses’ desk and he didn’t look right. I went over and sat next to him and I asked, ‘How are you feeling?’

“And he said, ‘You’re the first person who actually asked me that in the five days that I’ve been here.’ That just shocked me. There were numerous people who had seen him and no one had asked him that. Fifteen minutes, that was my break and I thought, alright I’ll sit here and I’ll talk to this guy for fifteen minutes, it’s not going to mean anything.

“But I noticed in that fifteen minutes that his heart rate dropped, his blood pressure came down, and he looked less clammy.

“I made a difference to this gentleman in a physical way that’s completely unmeasurable and I think that’s the importance of nurses, and we’re losing them to other professions. It’s not seen as appealing to go into.”

As such, Hamley hopes her initiative proves young nurses need support to stay in the industry, and that due to critical thinking skills young nurses gain during their university training, there is significant innovation they can bring to the industry.

“If we can give power and support to these younger nurses we can see innovation and everything, and I think that’s a game changer,” she says. “We’re there 24 hours a day, we’re the heart of healthcare.”

Hamley also aims to launch the inaugural Young Nurses Conference this year – TED-style talks where nurses can share experiences to encourage greater support networks and flexibility in the industry. She says this conference is integral for young nurses to realise the range of opportunities available in their profession.

“A lot of the younger nurses I have spoken with have said I want to go to a conference where I can hear people’s experiences, and can get a bit of an idea about direction,” Hamley says. “I want to get people who have different experiences so that nurses, [including] young nurses, feel like they’re not completely locked, and just offer something different in terms of professional development.”

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