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Aged care nurses stand out in awards shortlist


Aged care nurses make up three of the five finalists for HESTA’s Nurse of the Year award, which were announced today.

A nurse who kept residents safe during cyclonic winds, a nurse educator who utilises a range of methods and a nurse practitioner improving end-of-life care were among the five finalists in the Nurse of the Year category of the 2015 HESTA Nursing Awards.

Altogether 13 professionals in the field of nursing were today announced as finalists in the awards, across three categories.

Catrin Dittmar

Catrin Dittmar

Catrin Dittmar, a nurse at RSL Care Bolton Point at Lake Macqurie, was shortlisted for Nurse of the Year in recognition of her resilience and resourcefulness in keeping residents safe when cyclonic winds hit the retirement village facility in April 2015.

The storm caused power outages and damage to the property over several days.

Standard operating procedures completely changed overnight and support services could not be relied on in the usual way, said Ms Dittmar.

The 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, she said.

“The conditions were challenging, especially when the power was cut and our back-up generator also failed due to an electrical fault. Despite the difficulties, we were able to meet the needs of our residents.

“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.”

Ms Dittmar was recognised for the continuity of care she provided, having remaining calm, providing clear direction and communication during the crisis.

Educational leadership and mentoring

Myra Session

Myra Session

Northern Rivers nurse Myra Sessions was recognised as a Nurse of the Year finalist for providing educational leadership and mentoring, as well as delivering high-level and inspirational professional service.

Mrs Sessions, a nurse at the Mareeba Aged Care facility in the fishing village of Maclean northeast of Grafton, is responsible for nurse education and staff development in the 119 bed facility.

Despite being mostly confined to a wheelchair as the result of having multiple sclerosis, Mrs Sessions said her focus was on what she could do rather than on her physical limitations. “My experience means I understand the mobility challenges some of our elderly residents face,” she said.

“Education and training are the areas I am most passionate about, and I am encouraging staff to become more actively engaged. A recent staff training program lifted the overall self-confidence and sense of professionalism across the entire facility and that’s fantastic to see.”

Mrs Sessions said that face-to-face learning, self-directed education, facilitated online learning and the use of various apps all featured in her training. “Whatever methods help staff manage a training schedule to get the qualifications they want to pursue… Knowledge is the key to using the best, evidence-based practices to promote consistent, quality care, which can only come from enhancing staff expertise,” she said.

Innovative approaches to end-of-life care

Helen Newell CROPPEDHelen Newell, a Geelong nurse practitioner at Barwon Health, was shortlisted for Nurse of the Year in recognition of her work to ensure patients receive timely and appropriate clinical care in residential aged care facilities throughout the region.

“This involves ensuring other nurses and allied health professionals are more clinically competent to identify and respond to residents who show signs of deterioration,” Ms Newell said.

By identifying gaps in the delivery of care, an electronic tag process could be developed where staff alert the nurse practitioner when they discover a deteriorating resident, through an electronic documentation system.

“The electronic tag process meant residents received active and appropriate clinical management within their environment, while minimising the need to seek emergency hospital treatment,” she said.

Being able to recognise residents at a critical time improved the transition to palliative care, meaning residents’ end of life wishes could be respected and communication with families, doctors and other healthcare professionals was improved, Ms Newell said.

Ms Newell was recognised for the positive impact she had on improving clinical practice through training, mentoring and coordinating activities to improve processes and the knowledge of other staff.

The Nurse of the Year and Outstanding Graduate Award winners will each receive a $5,000 ME EveryDay transaction account and $5,000 towards further education. The Team Innovation Award winner will receive a $10,000 development grant.

Winners will be announced at the HESTA Australian Nursing Awards dinner on 15 October in Brisbane.

For more information visit the awards website.

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2 Responses to Aged care nurses stand out in awards shortlist

  1. Kerri-Anne September 30, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    Great to see aged care nurses being acknowledged and rewarded for their commitment, innovation and excellence in care, education and end of life approaches. Given our ageing population and the predictions of workforce needs in aged care, it’s great that HESTA is actively promoting awards in this sector.

  2. Karen Martin September 30, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

    Congratulations to all the finalists. I agree with Kerrie – Anne’s comment regarding the acknowlegement of the plethora of innovative and creative work being done in aged care and of the wonderful contribution you are all making to improve the lives of older people in your care.

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