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HESTA Nurse of the Year Catrin Dittmar

Nurse’s calm in a storm recognised with Nurse of Year award

An aged-care nurse who spearheaded efforts to ensure the safety and care of her residents during severe storms that lashed the NSW Lake Macquarie region has been named Australia’s Nurse of the Year.

Catrin Dittmar, a nurse at the RSL Care Bolton Point retirement village on the state’s Central Coast, was last night awarded HESTA’s highest accolade in recognition of her “resilience, resourcefulness and the continuity of care she provided to residents when cyclonic winds hit the facility in April this year”.

The severe storms, featuring cyclonic conditions and heavy rain, caused widespread power outages lasting several days and stretched emergency response services to their limits.

“With standard operating procedures completely changed overnight and support services not able to be relied upon in the usual way, we had to focus on the core needs of our residents,” Dittmar said of the experience. “Our priority was to reorganise the team and resources to enable a flexible delivery of care that also maintained the fundamentals, while at the same time reassuring residents with current information about the storm.

“For a while, we also had no landline phone and no communication between the five buildings on our campus and simple things like being able to reach and check on everyone were significant challenges.

“After dealing with what was a chaotic situation over the hours and days that followed, we were able to slowly get back to an even footing, establishing a level of calm and order back into the facility.”

HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey praised Dittmar’s “dedication and commitment” to ensuring residents were not only safe but also were still receiving “quality care in extremely difficult circumstances”.

Dittmar received a $5000 ME Everyday transaction account and $5000 towards further education, courtesy of awards sponsor ME. The nurse said she would use the prize money to start her master’s degree in nursing, specialising in aged care and palliative care. She is also planning a  holiday.

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