The art of caring

The 2009 NSWNA Professional Issues Conference explores new models of care emerging in response to evolving professional demands and opportunities for nurses. Don’t miss cutting-edge discussion on 31 July on how nursing care can evolve and excel.

The art of caring is a fundamental skill for nurses and midwives, but evolving professional demands and opportunities mean that models of care are changing, or need to change. The NSWNA has invited a diverse and inspirational group of speakers from nursing and non-nursing backgrounds to talk at the 2009 NSWNA Professional Issues Conference about many aspects of care, and facilitate discussion on how nursing care can evolve and excel.

Sabina Knight is the only nurse commissioner on the Rudd Government’s National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission. Sabina is also Professor of Remote Health Practice at Flinders University and has a longstanding passion for rural and remote nursing. NSWNA members will be privileged to hear Sabina talk at this year’s NSWNA Professional Issues Conference about some of the Health Commission’s findings and recommendations and what they mean for the future of professional nursing care.

Margaret Morris is a Victorian Nurse Practitioner who will speak at the Conference about her involvement in changing the model of care in the dialysis unit at St Vincent’s Health, where she works. The model uses two nurse practitioners to oversee the routine dialysis care for over 200 dialysis patients, including those dialysing at the St Vincent’s site, patients in rural Victorian dialysis centres, and patients on haemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis at home. The model allows doctors to focus on acute and complicated issues.

The model is supported by Professor Desmond Gorman, head of the school of Medicine at Auckland University, who recently described doctors as being like ‘747s being used to deliver milk’ because of the discrepancy between their knowledge and practice.

Advancing new models of nursing care is also an interest of Debra Thoms, NSW Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer. Debra will talk about NSW Health’s Essentials of Care Project, which seeks to develop a culture of critical enquiry into nursing care.

Political aspects of care will also be a focus at the Conference. Hannah Dahlen, Professor of Midwifery at the University of Western Sydney, and Justice Patricia Staunton, ex-General Secretary of the NSWNA, will discuss how lobbying and political organisation can help nurses achieve profession-wide goals that enhance and promote the value of care in society. Justice Staunton, who is the author of Nursing and the Law, will also discuss legal aspects of care.

Other keynote speakers on the day will be Janine Shepherd and Sue Pieters-Hawke, two of Australia’s most accomplished inspirational speakers. Janine’s life story reads like a novel, and she has in fact written several best-selling books based on her experiences, the first of which, Never Tell Me Never, was turned into a feature film starring Claudia Karvan.

While cycling in the Blue Mountains as part of her training to compete in cross-country skiing at the 1988 Winter Olympics, Janine was hit by a truck. Her neck and back were broken in six places, her right arm, collarbone and five ribs were fractured, and she lost five litres of blood, which alone was enough to kill her.

Doctors warned her family that she was not expected to survive the ordeal. But Janine did recover, and has since excelled in many professional fields. While her bones were still held rigid in a full body cast, Janine was lifted into a plane to receive her first aviation lesson. ‘If I can’t walk, I’ll fly,’ she decided.

Janine has since received her commercial pilot’s license and has gone on to become a qualified aerobatics instructor. Janine, who was told she would never be a mother, says her greatest achievement is raising her three children.

Janine has also received an order of Australia and is the patron of the Australasian Spinal Research Trust. She plans to speak about her many experiences as a patient and outpatient, and to affirm the vital caring role that nurses play in so many people’s lives.

Sue Pieters-Hawke is an author, personal coach and professional speaker who, until recently, was the primary carer for her mother Hazel Hawke, a prominent public figure and activist, even after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2002.

Sue is also the daughter of ex-Prime Minister Bob Hawke. In 2004, she co-authored the book, Hazel’s Journey, about her mother’s experiences with Alzheimer’s disease. Over 50,000 copies have been sold, and Sue is dedicated to creating awareness of the illness and raising funds for research.

Sue plans to speak about her own experiences as a carer. ‘I think most people have a lot of different carer roles in life. I’ve cared for my children, for my husband when he was ill, and of course for my mum,’ Sue told The Lamp.

Sue also plans to speak about her experiences as a care consumer. Hazel has recently been moved to a home where she will receive full-time professional care, and Sue has found some aspects of professional care to be fabulous, but also has some advice about aspects she thinks can be improved.

Never Tell Me Never: A Member’s Story

Jacquie Myers is an RN, midwife and parent educator, as well as the NSWNA Branch President at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Eleven years ago her daughter Rebecca, then 15 years old, had a severe accident while competing in gymnastics, resulting in a broken pelvis and a fractured back in five places. Rebecca was distressed and depressed because the accident not only put an end to her gymnastics career, but also meant that she might not walk again because the fractures were not stabilising.

Rebecca’s surgeon gave her a copy of Janine Shepherd’s Never Tell Me Never, and the book not only inspired her to persevere through her painful recovery, but also to get a pilot’s license. Rebecca is now a personal trainer and student of political science, and is fully recovered. Jacquie says Janine Shepherd is Rebecca’s personal hero.