Nurse's personal touch, compassion earn national award

As Australia continues to try to find ways to help those living with mental illness, the work of a mental health nurse over more than four decades has earned her the Catholic Health Australia Nurse of the Year award.

For the past eight years, Ailsa Tate has worked as triage nurse at St John of God Pinelodge Clinic, an acute mental health hospital with 18 drug and alcohol rehabilitation beds and 36 acute psychiatric beds. In her current role, and for many years before that, she has developed a manner that, coupled with her experience, allows her to quickly connect with her patients.

"No one looks forward to going to a hospital, but much can be done by staff to help ease the stresses of an admission by their demeanour and their empathy," CHA chief executive officer Martin Laverty said. The award was made at last night's CHA awards dinner in Perth.

"Ailsa's triage role substantially reduces patient anxiety and fears about coming into a psychiatric hospital. Her presence and openness quickly dispels any misconceptions patients and their families might have about coming into psychiatric services. A positive experience on arrival often underpins a successful engagement and better outcome for the patient."

Mrs Tate's understanding of people and their illnesses, as well as her very close relationships with the clinic's doctors, means she is able to allocate a patient to the most appropriate doctor to meet the patient's treatment needs and develop a patient-doctor relationship.

"Ailsa is able to quickly interpret the level of a patient's distress during a crisis and make sure that the appropriate services are brought to bear to relieve the crisis and, in many cases, save the patient's life," Mr Laverty said.

Mr Laverty said feedback from a Pinelodge patient about Mrs Tate really says everything about why she deserves the CHA Nurse of the Year award.

"One of the thousands of people Ailsa has helped over the years had this to say: 'Ailsa's interest in my problems and me as a person has helped me accept that I have needed help and to continue with rebuilding my life. Ailsa seems to have an understanding of what patients need.' That deep care for people comes through in everyone's comments about Ailsa," Mr Laverty said.

The CHA Nurse of the Year award honours an outstanding nurse working in Catholic health and aged care services. It recognises the commitment of a nurse to serving patients with respect and dignity whilst acknowledging their individuality. It includes a $5,000 grant from Catholic Super to be used for professional development.


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