26 November 2021: University of Canberra nursing student Lachlan Stewart has been named the winner of the 2021 Caring for Older People Excellence (COPE) award at the annual Dr Sarah Cope Memorial Lecture.
The award was established in honour of Dr Cope a much-loved and respected Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University, who died from bowel cancer in 2019 at the age of 44.
The COPE award is her legacy, and it recognises undergraduate nursing students at the University who bring the same passion and enthusiasm to the care of older people.
Mr Stewart was encouraged to apply for the award by his lecturer but said it was still a big surprise when he was named the winner.
“I’m very proud to have this connection with Sarah, even though I wasn’t fortunate enough to work with her,” he said.
“If I can come anywhere close to being the nurse she was, I would be very, very happy.”
Mr Stewart has worked in aged care at St Andrews Village in Hughes for the past three years, starting out as an administration officer and now working as the Workplace Health and Safety and Cultural Diversity Inclusion officer.
Supervisors at St Andrews spoke of his many exemplary qualities in delivering person-centred care, saying he was an excellent student and an ideal candidate for the award.
Not only was Mr Stewart applauded for his passion for aged care, but he was also recognised for his aptitude for complex work, ability to put research into practice, evidence-based approach to dementia care, and leadership in supporting other aged care staff.
Mr Stewart’s mother was also a nurse, specialising in clinical governance, and he has been interested in following in her footsteps from a young age.
“Now that I’m actually working in the field, my experiences have just reinforced that I was meant to do this kind of work,” he said.
“While some may not consider working with the elderly the most glamorous form of nursing, to me it’s certainly the most rewarding.”
Associate Professor in Nursing Kasia Bail said it was important to celebrate successes in the aged care space, particularly after the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
“We need to keep reinforcing the strong social value we place on the care of older people, both here at UC and in the wider community,” Associate Professor Bail said.
“I see a lot of students enrolling in our nursing degree because they love working in aged care, and the most rewarding thing for me is when they enter the workforce with the skills and knowledge they need, while holding on to that passion and determination.”
The need for both compassion and expertise in aged care nursing was a conviction she shared with her friend and colleague Dr Cope.
“It’s so important that we have nurses in aged care like Lachlan, who are highly-skilled as well as passionate,” she said.
“Sarah would have been very proud.”