Pioneering spirit connects past and present

Flinders University has celebrated 40 years of nursing graduates by bringing past students and teachers back to Sturt campus for an event that reflected on the dynamic changes of the past four decades, and shared advances shaping nursing today.

A poignant blend of the old and the new, guests were encouraged to reminisce over nostalgic memorabilia displays, and toured the University’s state-of-the-art nursing facilities and new laboratories.

Attendees included the campus’ first head of nursing at Sturt (then the College of Advanced Education), Dr Joan Durdin AM, a nurse, educator and historian who went on to lead the college for several years and is renowned for spearheading changes to nursing at a transformative time.

Now 96 years old, the sprightly trailblazer delivered a speech at the event, enthralling and amusing the crowd of 75 – including eight students from the very first nursing cohort who commenced their studies at Sturt in 1975.

Professor Alison Kitson, Vice-President and Executive Dean, Flinders College of Nursing and Health Sciences said: “Forty years ago our Sturt campus was at the very front of reforms to see nursing move from a hospital-based apprenticeship to a tertiary model, equipping graduates with the skills to become leaders in health planning and delivery.

“Our predecessors, the first course coordinators and leaders, completely re-shaped opportunities for those keen to pursue nursing as a career and trained a new generation to take on key roles as critical thinkers and problem solvers.”

A selection of images from the event

Flinders’ nursing graduates deliver or lead services in healthcare facilities around the world, are change-makers in health policy, innovators of new teaching methods or undertake life-changing research.

Professor Kitson updated guests at the event on some of the ground-breaking research taking place at Flinders today in the spirit of its trailblazing pioneers.

“Healthy aging, mental health and digital resources are some of the key focuses for our researchers, all underlined by a person-centred approach that involves patients in their treatment and maximises access to support and resources,” she said.

Current developments include the national End of Life Directions for Aged Care (ELDAC) initiative, which Flinders is helping to deliver as part of $15 million Australian Government funded project to provide meaningful materials directly to those working in palliative and aged care.

Flinders University’s palliative care online resource, CareSearch, also brings quality resources together for easy access, for members of the community as well as those working in care, while other researchers are contributing to the growing bank of digital resources with customised solutions to help more people access treatment.

“Working collaboratively across disciplines, our researchers have developed apps to detect and treat mental health disorders and others are working on tablet-based software to help those living with early stage dementia,” Professor Kitson said.

Innovative teaching methods and regularly updated courses ensure today’s nursing students are well-prepared to adapt to future technology and lead change in whatever field they enter, with recent additions to Flinders courses including a Master of Disaster Health and an online Healthy Aging undergraduate degree – both Australian firsts.

“Our University is known for its agility, progressiveness and multi-disciplinary approach and this is epitomised by nursing at Flinders,” Professor Kitson said. “It’s a long-standing ethos that continues to benefit our graduates and the community today.”

Members of Flinders notable nursing alumni include:

Dr Yvonne Parry – Dr Parry’s appointment on the Sigma Theta Tau International Global Oceania Regional Council recognises her as an international nurse leader. Dr Parry is one of only six registered nurses chosen to represent the Oceania region on the Council.

Dianne Longson – Ms Longson attended the 40 yr celebration event. She has had an exciting career making a difference in disadvantaged communities in Africa, India and Vietnam, including helping a Rwandan hospital attain international accreditation – the first in east Africa to do so. (Refer page 24 Encounter Magazine)

Professor Brenda Wilson – Professor Wilson spent 13 years as CEO at Cancer Council SA. She won the Telstra SA Business Women’s Award for Corporate and Government Sector in 2000 and is a Board Director at the ACH Group, ACHA and State Opera of SA, as well as a Council member of the Northern Adelaide Local Area Health Network. In 2014, she was appointed as the first female Lieutenant Governor of South Australia.

Jayne Lehmann – recognised as a national leader in diabetes and education, Ms Lehmann runs her practice EdHealth Australia and has pioneered services for people with disability and diabetes.

Emeritus Professor Jeff Fuller – a pioneer in community and rural health who won a Basil Hetzel Award for Leadership in Public Health, Professor Fuller has led advances in community health throughout an extensive clinical and academic career. He is a highly sought after consultant on community health, leading policy through his contributions on South Australian and national health leadership boards. (Refer page 25 Encounter Magazine).

Nat Cook MP – Nat Cook is the Member for Hurtle Vale in South Australia.

Dr Charlotte De Crespigny AM – A student and previous staff member at Flinders University, Dr De Crespigny was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for her work bridging the divide between the medical profession and some of Australia’s most vulnerable, including her work with remote Aboriginal communities and with prisoners.

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College of Nursing and Health Sciences