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Women at Work: Anne Corney and Hana Sayers

Astrid O'Neill

“Every day, we walk into the unknown.”

Nurses and midwives profoundly impact lives worldwide. Their contributions to the health and wellbeing of communities were honoured internationally in May, with International Day of the Midwife on 5 May and International Nurses Day on 12 May.

The ACT Excellence Awards for Nurses and Midwives recognises the care and professionalism of local healthcare champions. On 12 May, Anne Corney was awarded Nurse of the Year and Hana Sayers was awarded Midwife of the Year.

Hana Sayers – ACT Midwife of the Year 2016

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Hana is a former restaurant manager and public servant who submitted her application to study midwifery at the University of Canberra when she was 30 weeks’ pregnant. She admires the midwives who helped her on her own profound and difficult pregnancy journey.

“All the stars aligned when midwifery came onto my radar. It chose me, really – it feels as though it fell into my lap.”

As a midwife, Hana considers it her job to support and empower women so that they feel like they’ve done a great job of birthing their own babies.

“Everyday we walk into the unknown. We meet people from all walks of life at one of the most vulnerable but exciting times of their life. To be able to really support and empower people to make the most of their experience is a privilege.”

Hana saw there was a need to collaborate between the disciplines within the hospital to raise awareness about the enormous benefits of skin-to-skin contact and its ability to increase breastfeeding rates. She created and led a quality improvement project with the help of a close-knit, respectful group of colleagues.

Within only three years of being a midwife at Calvary Hospital, Hana has increased skin-to-skin contact for a group of mothers who often miss out on this: those who’ve had caesarean sections.

“It goes to show that anybody – no matter how old they are or how long they’ve been doing something – can make a big difference.”

In the last six months, Hana has been working on a project that aims to support families who’ve experienced a tragedy around childbirth. She fundraised within her community to purchase a piece of equipment called a Cuddle Cot – an option that allows parents to spend time with stillborn babies and say a proper goodbye.

“I implemented all of the policy and strategy within my workplace to make sure the cuddle cot is an option for families. I’ve instigated training around how we support these families in a very compassionate and sensitive way.”

Hana champions every woman’s right to choose what setting to birth her baby in but believes a hospital setting is flexible enough to suit each different personal experience.

“As midwives we work with women and families across the spectrum of our community. Their life experiences and backgrounds vary greatly from each other; as do their needs and desires. What drives me is to help them make each individual experience the best one for them.”

Anne Corney – ACT Nurse of the Year 2016

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Anne has been a nurse for 11 years. As a Clinical Nurse Consultant at the Canberra Hospital she leads Ward 9A – the acute gastroenterology ward that opened in late 2014. She’s passionate about treating disorders of the gastrointestinal system and caring for marginalised patients.

“I was working in a Sydney ward that focused on HIV and gastroenterology because I was initially interested in HIV. I found that I really loved gastroenterology so ended up going into that.”

Gastroenterology doesn’t just refer to the stomach; it includes other supportive organs like the pancreas, gallbladder and liver. Some of Anne’s patients are cared for in the lead-up to surgery while others have issues that can be managed with medical intervention in the ward. Many of them come from a disadvantaged background.

“I’ve always had a connection to marginalised people in my nursing career. In any ward, no matter what specialty you’re in, you’ll see patients of a lower socioeconomic status who may have a deep mistrust of the healthcare system. And for good reason – they’ve been discriminated by it in the past.”

Anne has always been aware of the potential difference, however small, nurses can make to the lives of these vulnerable people. Through her honest interaction, she works to mend their broken trust.

“There have been many patients over the years that I’ve cared for and have had the privilege to get to know a little about their background and what’s important to them. Some have sad outcomes and so you make every moment count with them. Some have gone on to do well and you have to keep that in mind, you have to remember the victories that patients have.”

Anne and her team of nurses work to continuously improve the ward and better manage patients. An important part of her job is speaking with patients to understand their concerns and educate them about their condition.

“I really enjoy that side of the work – spending the time with the patients and educating them on how they can manage the disease when they go home and how they can improve.”

Anne truly believes that the public health system in Australia is great.

“As a patient or a nurse, there’s no place I’d rather be. I really hope that’s maintained throughout my lifetime and my children’s lifetime.”

Images supplied

Astrid O'Neill

Astrid O’Neill has joined the HerCanberra team for a writing internship. Previously she’s studied at the University of Canberra and the University of Oxford, and worked for a bold little New York publishing company. She’s a Southsider at heart but now lives in Braddon with her fiancé, where they’re often planning their travels over a local brew. More about the Author

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