Top Honour for three South Australian Nurses

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Australia has saluted three nurses who were among 69 South Australians recognised for their outstanding contributions to the community in this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours list.

Registered nurse Sheila Kavanagh received an Officer in the General division of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service” to nursing through a dedicated career as a clinician, researcher and educator in the field of burns treatment.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded and guided by great nurse leaders who inspired me to take on new opportunities during my career that spans over four decades,” Sheila says.

“It is the people around me, including both former and current colleagues, who I credit for this recognition and I’m eternally grateful for their encouragement, sharing of knowledge, kindness and patience. I feel very humbled to receive the AO.”

Sheila arrived in Australia from the UK as a seven year old in 1963 and lived in Whyalla as her father accepted a job with mining giant BHP. “Whyalla is where I began my nursing career, it’s a place I am very fond of as I completed my nursing and midwifery training at the local hospital, married there and had our daughter,” she says.

After living in Whyalla for 20 years, she moved to Adelaide to work and later found her niche in the burns unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital becoming Head Clinical Nurse consultant in 1996.

“I was part of the RAH Burns Assessment team which was sent to Darwin to care for the survivors of the 2002 Bali bombings. The number of patients we were treating certainly highlighted our essential skills and knowledge that we had developed as part of a disaster preparedness plan,” Sheila says.

“Burns survivors and their families are always very appreciative of the work nurses do. The recovery process can be very long so strong relationships are formed over a number of years.”
Sheila was awarded an OAM for her commitment, courage and service through the provision of medical assistance to the victims of the Bali bombings.

“I really love what I do and for me it has always been about putting a patient’s needs first.” She is also a co-founder and Director of the Julian Burns Trust and has recently moved on to a more specific role as an educator two days a week at the RAH.

The Queen’s Birthday 2017 Honours List also included two other significant awards being presented to South Australian nurses:

Dr Anne Johnson, AM Starting out her remarkable career as a nurse at Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Anne was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to community health, which includes 24 years’ dedication to child injury prevention locally and nationally.

Ms Judith Smith, AM The former Executive Director of Nursing and Client Services/Chief Nursing Officer at Royal District Nursing Service was awarded an AM for her significant service to community health through pharmacy regulation and health practitioner roles, to nursing, and to aged persons.

“To be recognised as part of the Australian honours system is one of the highest acknowledgements for a nurse or midwife,” ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Assoc Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM says.

“This highlights their outstanding contribution to patients, their families and the community. “ANMF (SA Branch) congratulates the honourees on their remarkable careers dedicated to achieving positive health outcomes for South Australians.”

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