NT leader is Remote Health Professional of the Year

A career dedicated to serving isolated and Indigenous communities has seen Flinders Associate Professor Sue Lenthall become the Remote Health Professional of the Year 2017.

Associate Professor Lenthall, the Director of Flinders NT Katherine Campus, this month received the 2017 prestigious CRANAplus Aurora Award at the organisation’s conference in Broome.

CRANAplus chief executive Christopher Cliffe said: “Sue has a very long history with CRANAplus and remote health and it truly deserving of this prestigious award”.

Associate Professor Lenthall’s Remote Area Nurse (RAN) career started in Queensland in the 1980s.

“I became passionate about improving Indigenous health outcomes and the education of remote health professionals.

“I was appalled at the health status and living conditions, and lack of education for health practitioners including RANs,” Associate Professor Lenthall says.

“While there is still much to be done, I have seen improvements.

“Children don’t die of dehydration as they use to, access to health services has improved, protocol manuals have been established as well as postgraduate courses for remote health professionals.”

However, high turnover of RANS in remote Indigenous communities remains a problem, with a recent study a 128% turnover of staff at clinic level each year, putting patient health at risk.

The research, published in Human Resources for Health , noted that half of the staff working in a remote Northern Territory healthcare clinic leave after four months on the job and two-thirds leave remote work altogether every year.

“There needs to be a lot of work and commitment by employers and governments to turn this around,” Associate Professor Lenthall says.

After three decades of work as an educator, researcher and leader in the remote health field, Associate Professor Lenthall cites the ‘Back from the Edge’ program as a career highlight.

The research program, which focused on reducing and preventing occupational stress in RAN workforce, provided a blueprint to organisations and health services to improve recruitment and retention.

Her visionary approach to improving remote health and to develop best practice for RAN and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, doctors and allied health workers has earned her accolades from her peers, students colleagues and health services.

The former Council of Remote Area Nurses of Australia (CRANA+) award has expanded to recognise health professionals who have made an outstanding contribution to remote and isolated health.

Last month, a Flinders NT team including Associate Professor Lenthall won an Australian Government Award for University Teaching.

Associate Professor Lenthall, Associate Professor Narelle Campbell, Dr Helen Wozniak and Ms Annie Farthing received one of the 2017 Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.

Flinders University offers  a medical program in the Northern Territory, postgraduate courses in Remote Health, remote and rural inter-professional placement learning in the NT and research initiatives through the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Wellbeing and Centre for Remote Health.

Also this month, distinguished rural doctor and Flinders Emeritus Professor Paul Worley became Australia’s first national rural health commissioner.

“Professor Worley will be a determined, effective and passionate advocate for strengthening rural health outcomes across Australia,” Federal Assistant Minister for Health David Gillespie.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with him to progress regional and rural health reform.”

The South Australian-based professor was Dean of Medicine at Flinders University for the past 10 years.

He has also held senior leadership roles with the Rural Doctors Association of South Australia and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.


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