Before we even knew what COVID-19 was, 2020 was designated as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife by the World Health Organization (WHO). The professions were designated in line with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale – the world’s most famous nurse. The WHO hopes to highlight the contributions nurses and midwives make to society and to enhance the understanding of their jobs amongst the general public.
In what is also UC’s 30th year as a University, an exhibition – titled I Care - will be held. The exhibition aims to showcase the work of hardworking Australian nurses, and is being hosted by Faculty of Arts and Design students.
Discipline Lead of Nursing, Dr Holly Northam, says that this year is more important than most to recognise the devotion nurses and midwives have to their jobs.
“Because of COVID-19 the role of nurses has been much more clearly demonstrated in the media, I think we are seeing the difference we can make in our roles as nurses,” she says.
“In this time, the best thing the community can do is to take the advice of the public health experts because while protecting themselves, they are protecting the health care workers who are on the frontline.”
As a UC nursing alumna and academic, Holly has been teaching at UC since 2010. She says she is happy to see the growing diversity within the discipline.
“One of the things I’m very proud of is how we have grown our discipline within the University. We are now one of the largest disciplines at UC. We have international students and I’m very excited to see that because our profession is a global profession,” Holly says.
“We are very privileged to have students come from overseas who are putting their education in our hands. They want to work with us and learn from us. I know all of the students that we work with will go out and make a difference in the world.”
Even though nursing has existed as a university degree for several decades in Australia, unfortunately some nursing stereotypes – like just being a doctors’ assistant - still exist in modern society.
“Nurses are the interface of the healthcare system. They’re basically the eyes, the ears, the senses of any health institution,” Holly says.
“We do think the community needs to know a lot more about our scope of work, and the level of work that we push for. It’s important for people to realise that although the stereotypes of all those sweet kind nurses sound lovely, they also need to be able to critically analyse situations using their expertise.”
“It’s about having unconditional positive regard for all the people you come across to make sure we can do the best of we can to make the world a better place.”
President of the UC Nursing Society, Elise Webb, is in the third year of her nursing degree.
“I was actually studying communications and public relations, but I was thinking I need to do something that would give me more fulfillment,” she says.
“At the same time my sister became unwell and was in hospital. I got to know a nurse who was looking after her, and I thought she was amazing.”
Soon after, Elise transferred to a nursing degree. As soon as she got into it, she knew she was where she needed to be.
“Our faculty is phenomenal. They are teaching us how to be kind and caring, and that’s the foundation of the value of being a nurse,” Elise says.
“I think the culture among UC nursing is fantastic. It’s a group of strong, like-minded people. Our faculty teach something from the textbook, and then teach us how to question that. We’re learning how to think for ourselves.”
“It would be really good to raise awareness about the complexity of the nursing profession. Just from doing this degree, I have learned how much nurses do that I had no idea about. Although they may not always be seen, the work they do is profound.”
The ‘I Care’ exhibition will be on display in the University of Canberra Mura Gadi Gallery from Monday 17 August until Wednesday 30 September. It is open to the public Monday to Friday, between 10:30am and 4:30pm.
Click here to support the UC Nursing Research Fund.
Words by Clio Yang. Photos by Kat Brown.