Photo of nurses Britt Shephard and Shannon Narracott.

Pictured: Britt Shephard and Shannon Narracott, winners of the ACT Nursing Team of the Year.

12 May 2020

A Neonatal Midwife, a Clinical Nurse Consultant and two Emergency Department Registered Nurses have taken out the top three 2020 Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards in the categories of Midwife, Nurse and Team of the Year respectively.

‘There are two types of people - those who can choose to sit back or those who want to make change and we wanted to make change happen,’ said Shannon Narracott, who along with Britt Shephard, comprise the ACT’s Nursing Team of the Year.

The Canberra Hospital Emergency Department Registered Nurses are passionate voices and advocates for vulnerable patients with an interest in suicide awareness and education. Last year their Suicide Prevention Ball raised more than $41,000 for the Black Dog Institute.

They are now working towards the development of a national mental health and counselling program.

‘We feel strongly about mental health, and in particular, suicide awareness and prevention. That’s something we weren’t aware of the prevalence of until we started working in the Emergency Department’, added Shannon.

The duo were among eight 2020 ACT Nurse and Midwifery Excellence Award winners named on 12 May 2020. The annual peer assessed program recognises the Territory’s top nurses and midwives and the role they play in the health and wellbeing of our community.

Christopher Harris, a Clinical Nurse Consultant at the University of Canberra Hospital is the 2020 Nurse of the Year. With 10 years’ experience, Chris Harris is responsible for Stromlo Ward’s modern-day leadership and management practice that provides excellent patient care and a supportive workplace for staff. Under his leadership Stromlo Ward achieved the highest rating in a staff culture survey.

Christopher Harris, a Clinical Nurse Consultant

Mr Harris said he shared this award with his Stromlo Ward team.

‘This award is not just for me, it’s for the whole team I work with, particularly at the moment we are working really hard to get amazing patient outcomes and staff culture. Without them I would not be in this position. So I share this with a lot of people.’

Kathy Coonan, a Neonatal Midwife at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce, was named Midwife of the Year. A role model for staff to aspire to, Kathy began her career as a midwife in Canberra in 1983. She was instrumental in setting up the Newborn and Parent Support Service at The Canberra Hospital in the mid-1990s where the program to this day allows premature babies to be discharged earlier with skilled neonatal clinicians caring for the family in their home.

Kathy Coonan named Midwife of the Year

“I come from a family of nurses, my sister, my mother were my inspiration and I always wanted to be a midwife and help women and their babies. Caring for premature and sick babies and helping their parents through a very difficult time is what motivates me to do my best every single day in my job,” said Kathy.

Other award-winners to receive awards during the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife included:

  • Nikki Johnston, a Nurse Practitioner at Clare Holland House who specialises in Palliative Care (Excellence in Quality Improvement and Research Practice).
  • Heather Needham, Senior Manager of Patient Experience, Canberra Health Services (Excellence in Leadership Practice).
  • Mercy Lukose, Clinical Nurse Consultant Ward 11B, Canberra Health Services (Excellence in Management Practice).
  • Rachel Bilton-Simek, Palliative Care Educator, Clare Holland House (Excellence in Educational Practice).
  • The Ward 11A team who specialise in care of the elderly, Canberra Health Services (Excellence in Clinical Practice).

Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Anthony Dombkins, said it was important to recognise the contribution of nurses and midwives in caring for our community in the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

Mr Dombkins said the current public health emergency highlighted what nurses and midwives do each day. He said the International Day of the Nurse theme, Nursing the World to Health, was particularly poignant this year.

‘COVID-19 does not define nursing. It highlights the profession’s attributes of tenacity and a definite commitment to our profession and patients regardless of the challenges we face in the clinical arena.’

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