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  • Purple House nurse named Nurse of the Year

    Author: Karen Keast

Sarah Brown is the 2017 Nurse of the Year.

The remote area nurse, who reshaped ‘on country’ dialysis services for Aboriginal people in central Australia, has been awarded the top honour at the 2017 HESTA Australian Nursing and Midwifery Awards, held in Brisbane last night.

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A non-Indigenous nurse who was born in England and grew up in Queensland, Ms Brown helped establish the Alice Springs-based Western Desert Dialysis, known as Purple House.

Purple House provides renal dialysis six days a week, social support and allied health services, but it’s also a place that patients can call their own - and make bush medicine, cook damper and kangaroo tails on a camp fire, and organise hunting trips.

“Recognition like this is great for us and for what we are trying to achieve - we’re community-controlled, and we raise money ourselves and we’re always looking for the right sort of nurses who want to come and work for us and have some fun,” Ms Brown said.

“Things like this are not only lovely personally but really fabulous for the whole organisation and our story - which is really about Aboriginal people working really hard against the odds to make life better for their family members and their communities.”

The Aboriginal community-controlled venture has 24 dialysis machines at 11 places, from Wanarn and Warburton in Western Australia to Yirrkala in Arnhem Land.

It also has a mobile dialysis unit, the Purple Truck, which rolls out to visit other remote communities.

Ms Brown said the prize money will help fund the creation of a new dialysis service at Ernabella in South Australia for the Pukatja community. The service also plans to open the doors of a dialysis unit at Ampilatwatja, in the Utopia region of the Northern Territory, early next year.

Other award winners include Rebecca Rich, of Perth Clinic in Western Australia, who was named Outstanding Graduate, while The Mater (Sydney) Pre-admission Midwife Appointment Program at The Mater Hospital won the award for Team Excellence.

Ms Rich was recognised for her commitment to achieving patient-centred care in mental health nursing, and now plans to use the prize money to visit hospitals around Australia to research treatment for mental health and personality disorders.

“I plan to visit hospitals that treat personality disorders, find out how they’ve been successful and bring this back to the Perth Clinic to help us improve,” she said

The Mater was awarded for developing and implementing an holistic multidisciplinary care program to women in the third trimester of their pregnancies.

The program provides women with a free 45-minute appointment with a specially trained midwife to discuss the women’s expectations and concerns around their pregnancy, birth and early parenting, which also includes screening for depression and anxiety, domestic violence screening, and assistance with other concerns.

Antenatal midwife coordinator Sarah Tooke said the prize money will be used to continue to run the program, fund research, and improve services.

“We want to provide ongoing training for staff, conduct formal research to self-evaluate and we would like to fund a translator to help with linguistically diverse patients.”

Now in its 11th year, the annual awards recognise the outstanding contribution of graduates, individuals and teams for their professionalism, innovation and care across a range of health settings.

HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said this year’s winners exemplify the best qualities of their professions, and demonstrate the outstanding impact nurses and midwives have in achieving new standards of health care in Australia.

“These winners stood out from an exceptional group of finalists for their outstanding leadership and innovation, in implementing new services and practices that provide enhanced health care outcomes and the highest standard of care to patients across Australia,” she said.

The winners, who each receive $10,000 for further education or team development, were selected from 12 finalists across Australia.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords