Introduction by Croakey: The experiences of nurses across Australia, from regional health centres through to ICUs at the epicentre of COVID outbreaks, will be a focus at next week’s National Nursing Forum, staged by the Australian College of Nursing from 26-28 October.
Croakey editor Jennifer Doggett will be reporting from this virtual event for the Croakey Conference News Service, and previews the event below.
You can follow the discussions at Twitter via the conference hashtag #NNF2021.
Jennifer Doggett writes:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on many professions but nurses have felt the impact more than most.
Nurses have played a critical role in all areas of Australia’s pandemic response.
Ex-nurses have come out of retirement while others have left non-clinical roles to upskill and re-train to meet the increased workforce demands.
Their contribution to the pandemic and their ongoing role in the health system will be showcased at the Australian College of Nursing’s National Nursing Forum (NNF) to be held next week from 26-28 October.
Originally scheduled for 2020 to celebrate the World Health Assembly’s International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, this event has been postponed twice and moved to a virtual platform to accommodate COVID restrictions.
The theme for this year’s NNF — ‘Champions of Change’ — will be explored in different ways via the keynote plenary sessions, workshops and concurrent sessions.
Notable speakers include Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, Shadow Minister Mark Butler, and former Federal Health Minister and now Chair of VicHealth Nicola Roxon, as well as Tania Vogt, CEO of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia and ACT Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer Anthony Dombkins.
In the lead up to the conference, nursing leaders have spoken out via ACN on the current challenges facing the nursing sector in Australia.
ACN CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, is calling for nurses to play a greater role in leadership in both the health system and wider community.
“When you invest in nurse leadership you get innovation, inclusion and integration of care – a holistic approach to wellbeing,” she told Croakey.
“I would like to see a nurse on every board in Australia, I would like to see more nurses as political leaders, I would like to see the nursing voice far more represented in government.”
Glynis Thorpe, a clinical nurse consultant with the Royal Flying Doctors Service, is passionate about realising the untapped potential of nurses.
She described her frustration at not being able to see patients under a mental health plan, despite holding a Medicare Provider Number, due to lack of infrastructure for independent nursing practices and also lobbying against the move by GPs.
“If only half of the 1,016 nurses eligible for a provider number took up this option they could provide 10,000 extra interventions each week. This means Australians currently waiting eight weeks or more to see someone could access care sooner from a skilled and experienced health professional,” she said.
Also canvassed about her thoughts by ACN ahead of the conference, Simone Sheridan, a family violence nurse educator, nominated the sexual harassment of nurses as a high priority issue for the profession.
“Sexual harassment of nurses is something that has happened for many years but we have been taught to tolerate it. Now with the ‘Me Too’ movement, people are speaking up and saying that this is not OK,” she said.
Sheridan says that the future of nursing should be, “increased respect, increased visibility of what we do and increased funding and resources.”
Focus on COVID-19
A range of presentations on COVID-19 will showcase the diverse ways in which nurses have contributed to Australia’s pandemic response.
This includes a panel of emerging nurse leaders, including Emma Bugden, Liam Jackson, Hollie Jaggard and Suzanne Volejnikova-wenger, who will discuss their experiences of nursing during COVID-19.
The experiences of nurses in regional areas will be reflected in presentations by Fiona Brew, who in 2020 led a team of nurses who spent hours in the snow testing Colac residents for COVID-19, and by Associate Professor Jennifer Weller-Newton, who has researched the unique experience of regional healthcare workers facing the compounding pressures of geographical isolation, workforce and equipment limitations, and border closures.
Ways to support staff who are either COVID-19 positive or close contacts in quarantine will be outlined by a presentation from Karrie Long, Director Nursing Research Hub at Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH), which experienced the highest incidence of healthcare worker infection in Victoria, with 262 staff infected with COVID-19, 68 percent of whom were nurses.
The challenges of ensuring that urgent surgery continued throughout the pandemic will also be addressed by Ashley Wheeler, General Manager Surgical Services at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne.
Nursing beyond COVID
Of course, other health problems didn’t disappear with the arrival of COVID-19, so throughout the pandemic, nurses have also had to care for non-COVID patients, while keeping themselves and patients safe from the risk of infection.
Presentations on non-COVID issues at the NNF will address current and emerging issues facing nurses in all parts of our health system, addressing clinical, organisational, political and cultural barriers that still prevent nurses from reaching their full potential.
The serious and pervasive problem of bullying in nursing will be addressed by Dr Peter Hartin, a Senior Lecture in Nursing at James Cook University, who undertook a PhD examining how bullying in the nursing profession in Australia has changed over the past four decades.
His presentation will include the findings from testimonies of 70 registered nurses across Australia, which highlight the important role that management plays in tackling bullying in nursing.
The conference will also address the complex issue of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) with a presentation by Dr Robin Digby, a registered nurse and post-doctoral fellow at Alfred Health and Deakin University, on staff perspectives on the introduction of VAD into an acute hospital.
Cultural safety issues will be discussed, including responses to complaints from Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families and/or communities.
The challenges of nursing in a limited resource setting will be discussed by Captain Jan Becker, an Australian helicopter pilot and nurse working in Tanzania. Her presentation will focus on a midwife champion program in a Tanzanian urban maternity ward.
Looking to the future
Future directions in nursing will be discussed in a number of sessions, to showcase the many ways in which nurses are on the frontier of health service innovation.
The role of clinical academic nursing leaders in contributing to best practice, continuity and evidence-based patient care will be addressed in a joint presentation from Professor Jeroen Hendriks, Donna Stevens and Rebecca Badcock.
The conference will also hear that nurses have been performing prostate biopsy procedures in the United Kingdom for a number of years and the evidence suggests this model has resulted in patient outcomes equal to or slightly better than when performed by doctors.
Dave Heath, the first nurse accredited to perform prostate biopsy in Australia, will speak about his professional journey and the process to establishing a nurse-led prostate biopsy service in a regional health institution.
The work being undertaken by the ACN Men in Nursing Working Party will be presented by its Chair, Luke Yokota, who will detail how this group is challenging the way gender stereotypes can lead young men and boys to discount a career in nursing.
ACN says the broad ranging conference program will provide content and interactive opportunities suitable for nurses, health service managers, researchers, policy makers and others with an interest in nursing and broader healthcare issues.
See here for more information about this event including online registration: https://www.acn.edu.au/events/national-nursing-forum
Disclaimer: Jennifer Doggett provides consultancy services to the Australian College of Nursing.
See Croakey’s archive of stories about nurses and nursing.
See also our coverage of the 2019 NNF.
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