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A NSW emergency and trauma nurse/clinician researcher dedicated to preventing childhood injury and a Victorian midwife improving maternity and health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and babies took out the major awards at last night’s 2019 HESTA Australian Nursing and Midwifery Awards in Melbourne.

Professor Kate Curtis, an internationally renowned emergency and trauma nurse and clinician academic at the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District and Sydney Nursing School, was named Nurse of the Year for advocating to improve emergency hospital care across Australia and abroad, especially for children.

“It felt pretty humbling because I don’t think I’m better than any other nurse out there and I think we all deserve recognition,” Professor Curtis told the ANMJ about being named Nurse of the Year.

“But it’s also been a great opportunity to get one of my passions out there, which is injury prevention in children because it’s the largest cause of death and disability in young kids.

“The opportunities of being in the spotlight for a while will be able to help me raise awareness of the work we need to do to prevent childhood injury and to create equitable access to emergency care across Australia.”

A NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association member, Professor Curtis combines clinical work with academic roles to produce leading studies on paediatric and emergency trauma care.

She founded the Childhood Injury Prevention Alliance (CHIPA) and was key to securing almost $1 million in federal funding in the 2018/19 federal budget to develop a National Injury Prevention Strategy.

“We’re really only just starting to develop a National Injury Prevention Strategy for this country. Injury rates haven’t changed over 10 years and we really need to implement a couple of things that we actually know already work to start making a difference.”

In the Midwife of the Year category, Victorian midwife Tracey Stephens took out the honours for improving maternity and health outcomes for Indigenous women and babies by implementing culturally appropriate and safe maternity healthcare services.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in my community are often vulnerable and experience many barriers when trying to access healthcare,” Tracey explains.

Tracey Stephens, HESTA Midwife of the Year winner, 2019

“This is why it’s really important for Aboriginal women like myself to be in roles like this. Aboriginal-led care is crucial to promoting the best possible health outcomes for these women and their babies.”

In improving culturally and safe maternity healthcare at Monash Health, Tracey has been able to help Aboriginal women better access services, which has contributed to the number of Aboriginal babies born at the health service doubling.

“Every day I get to work with women to achieve the best outcomes in their birthing journey,” said Tracey, a CATSINaM member.

“After birth I am able to follow these women into the community and watch healthy babies and competent mothers thrive.”

The final award for Team Excellence was taken out by ACT’s Calvary Public Hospital’s INSPIRED team from its palliative care service Clare Holland House for their work to create a new model of palliative care delivery for aged care residents requiring end-of-life care.

All three winners received $10,000 in prizemoney to use on further education or team development.