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A Northern Territory remote area nurse providing compassionate and culturally safe care to First Nations communities, and a Victorian midwife who drove the implementation of an innovative Midwifery Group Practice model leading to better outcomes, have taken out top honours at last night’s 17th HESTA Australian Nursing and Midwifery Awards in Sydney.

Midwife of the Year

In 2020, Castlemaine Health, a rural health service in the Goldfields region of central Victoria, suspended its maternity service and commissioned an external review to look at procedures, clinical practice protocols and capability and safety.

Midwife April Jardine played an instrumental role in reshaping the vital service, which re-opened a year later under a new maternity model of care for women and their families underpinned by continuity of midwifery care and Midwifery Group Practice, where women receive care from a known midwife throughout pregnancy, birth and the early postpartum period.

Midwifery-led continuity of care models are considered the gold-standard for maternity care, with extensive global research continually finding that they lead to less interventions during birth, better outcomes for women and babies, and greater satisfaction with care provision.

April Jardine, Midwife of the Year

“To be part of reshaping a suspended rural service with community input, and successfully re-launch a local maternity service when so many have closed, has been a very rewarding experience,” April said, after being named Midwife of the Year.

Now known as Dhelkaya Health, meaning ‘being healthy’ in the Dja Dja Wurrung language, the first birth occurred in early June 2021.

“I’m really proud of our model here and what we’re achieving for the midwives and women in our community,” April told the ANMJ.

“For me, it’s just really reinforced that this is why we become midwives, to be able to work to our full scope, and to provide women with a high-standard of care that they can be involved with, and we can get to know them, and they can trust us.”

Nurse of the Year

In the Nurse of the Year category, Ti Tree nurse Caitlin Clayer was recognised for her dedication as a remote area nurse, especially providing culturally safe care to First Nations communities.

As one of the primary caregivers in a small and remote community, Caitlin supports patients with a wide range of health concerns, helping to reduce barriers to accessing regular services such as cervical screening, sexual health, and primary health concerns. She also works on-call to manage emergencies.

“It’s a privilege to win this award,” she said.

“It’s nice to feel as though the work you do is appreciated and recognised. I hope that this award will shed some light on remote nursing, the work we do and, hopefully, encourage other nurses to consider remote nursing.”

Outstanding Organisation Award

Meanwhile, Sunny Street, from Maroochydore in Queensland, took out the Outstanding Organisation Award for its work providing innovative primary healthcare for Australians experiencing homelessness and poverty.

CEO and Sunny Street co-founder, Sonia Martin, originally started the service out of the boot of her car. Since those early beginnings in 2018, the service has grown to have more than 30,000 conversations and consultations with vulnerable Australians, reducing presentations and associated costs for local hospitals and health services.

“It is an honour and privilege to have the incredibly impactful street work of Sunny Street – a nurse-driven service – recognised nationally,” she said.

“We are proud to be formally recognised as exceptional, vital contributors to the Australian healthcare system. I’d like to thank my incredible team for their dedication, discipline and determination.

“We plan to use the prize money to build a comprehensive social prescription program for vulnerable people, aimed at improving their overall wellbeing by addressing both psychological and physical health concerns.”