Home | Top Stories | Nurse turned filmmaker releases ode to the profession with new short film, Shift
Helen Hanson-Searle in 'Shift'. Picture: Screenshot, ECU YouTube

Nurse turned filmmaker releases ode to the profession with new short film, Shift

A new film by a registered nurse turned filmmaker has been released, with the help of Edith Cowan University, to celebrate the dedication of our nurses and midwives.

Helen Hanson-Searle is an RN, actor, writer, director and sometimes opera singer; and while that might seem a strange combination for some, Hanson-Searle believes it couldn't be more natural.

Nursing is one of those professions that starts conversations. At a barbeque, the pub or a family gathering, most nurses have been accosted by someone buffeting them with questions as soon as they find out what they do. Nurses invariably have good stories, some harrowing some funny or sweet, and day to day nurses see a range of human emotions and conditions which makes them good story tellers.

Hanson-Searle says that storytelling is a huge part of the nursing tradition.

"As an actor, we create freely. We have this wonderful opportunity to create characters and bring them to life. But also as nurses we're engaging in stories every single day. We're hearing stories, really tough stories all the time. And storytelling has been a big part of our community for generations. It's a really healing tool that we've been using for thousands of years to heal communities and to heal the spirit."

It was one such story that inspired the short film Shift, which charts a short part of one weary nurses' journey home from a long shift and the people she encounters. A colleague told Hanson-Searle about a similar journey home.

Helen Hanson-Searle in 'Shift'

"I was talking to a nurse at work and she talked to me about travelling home at the end of the day, and a young woman started speaking to her who was intellectually challenged. And she just thought afterwards how much joy she brought to the train. I thought what a lovely story that is. Because I've also had so many people talking to me on trains and on buses that I don't know. They just come up if they recognise you in uniform, they'll just start chatting with you. So I thought there's a lovely opportunity for a story there."

For Hanson-Searle the film, in which she plays the lead character of the nurse, helps give some representation to nurses in the media outside of the traditional hospital drama. It shows a nurse as a real person as well as the effect nurses have on the community outside of a medical setting.

"She's de-stressing, unpacking from her shift. If you'll notice at the beginning of Shift, there's these subtle sounds of hospital noises when she's standing at the bus stop waiting," she says.

"So if you imagine, she's made a 12-hour shift. She's on her way home. She's been dealing with difficult things throughout the night, and then she just wants to be quiet. And also, she's got her own things going on as well that she's thinking about, having that time for herself. But on this particular night, it's relentless... that people want to communicate and eventually she surrenders to that, which is part of the joy of the film, I think."

Shift was one of two films awarded ECU Commissions: the Arts in society grants earlier this year by the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts (WAAPA) and ECU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery to create artistic works that celebrated the 2020 International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, and was open to any ECU alumni.

Hanson-Searle's long journey to Shift started at age 17 when she trained at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children (PMH) in the Perth suburb of Subiaco for in-hospital nurse training.

She eventually went to WAAPA and more recently did bachelor's degrees in communication, screenwriting and producing, all while acting on film and nursing casually.

Professor Di Twigg AM from ECU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery said 2020 could not have been a more fitting year to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the amazing work that nurses and health care workers do every day,” Twigg said.

“We wanted this project to highlight and recognise nurses and midwives for their courage, commitment, knowledge, resilience, advocacy and persistence in many varied circumstances.”

And Hanson-Searle hopes her work, and her representation of nurses, will do just that, as well as highlight the importance of connecting with other people in tough times.

"[Nurses] matter. The work nurses do is absolutely important. That compassion matters. That we need time for compassion, and we mustn't lose that time as technology and efficiency increases in the workplace. We must be vigilant about the time that we need to be compassionate for ourselves and for our patients as well."

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