The dedicated and hard-working nurses of the Wee Waa District were celebrated last week on International Nurses Day.

The important occasion is celebrated worldwide on May 12 every year, the date Florence Nightingale was born.

Regarded as the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale was a trailblazing British nurse, statistician, social reformer, and leader of improved health care.

The day is a time to honour the invaluable work being done by members of the nursing profession.

This year’s theme for International Nurses Day was Nurses: A Voice to Lead – invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health.

At Wee Waa Community Hospital, nurses took a brief moment between rounds to celebrate with a special lunch.

New health service manager Cathy Conomos also organised International Nurses Day t-shirts to mark the event.

“It’s a day to recognise all nurses for their dedication to their community,” said Mrs Conomos.

“We celebrated our local nurses at Wee Waa Health Service on this day in recognition of the hard work they tirelessly provide,” said new health service manager Cathy Conomos on May 12, International Nurses Day.

“We have an excellent nursing team, health care and admin team here.”

Mrs Conomos was recently appointed health service manager at Wee Waa Community Hospital.

Although she has a new role and title, the experienced and popular nurse is still motivated by the same motto that drove her when she first started on the wards 30 years ago: “It is all about the patients,” said Mrs Conomos.

“I’m looking forward to working in this role and delivering that continuity of care to the community,” she said.

“I’m actually still rostered on the floor for some shifts: working in emergency and the general ward, so it’s not just going to be management, even though that is a priority.

“Clinical is still, I think, the basis of nursing and keeping the hospital going, and as I said – it’s all about the patients, so my aim is to continue with the clinical side as well as

“The patient will always come first; that’s my priority.”

As well as an opportunity to advance her career, Mrs Conomos’ decision to take on the top job is also reflective of her commitment to serving a community close to her heart.

“I moved to Wee Waa when I was five, and I’ve lived here ever since.

“I did go away to Armidale to do my nurse’s training, but I came back and did my postgraduate here at the Wee Waa Hospital.

“My then-boyfriend who became my then-fiancé and then my husband was here; otherwise, I may have ventured on.

“But I’m glad I didn’t; it’s a great little community.”

Mrs Conomos and her husband Andrew raised their family in Wee Waa, where she’s gained a wealth of experience and knowledge as a health professional in nursing, community health and in the mental health sector as a living skills officer.

Before taking on the manager’s position, Mrs Conomos worked at the town’s medical centre for more than 20 years, first for Dr Truvshaw and later in the new and current centre with Dr Sivanathan.

“I was still working here (at the hospital) part-time as a nurse two or three days a week doing evening or night duty shifts – whatever fitted in.

“Now my full-time role is here.

“After 24 years, it was really hard to finish up, but I still have a lot of liaisons with them (the centre), and I still help them out.”

Mrs Conomos was about to start working in a new nurse specialist role when she filled in as acting health service manager at the hospital; she was then encouraged by her colleagues to apply for the position permanently.

“The position came up, and I decided I was going to give it a shot.

“I had a lot of reinforcement from some of my staff members who said – ‘Give it a shot’.

“And that pushed me; otherwise, it wasn’t something I’d thought about doing 12 months ago.

“We have an excellent team; they all work together and knowing the team and knowing all the people I was going to be working with was a big part of it.

“For me, communication and having an effective working team that gets on well together is important.”

The caring and compassionate nature of nurses is the reason they’re often considered the heartbeat of the health sector, but their skills and knowledge of a patient’s medical history is critical, especially when hospitals are serviced by locum doctors and the Small Towns After Hours Program – a phone service which links registered nurses in remote local health districts to a GP in a larger centre to provide advice over the telephone.

“Working in the health sector for the last 30 years, I think I know a lot of people in the community quite well.

“Knowing who they are when they walk through the door, what some of their history is, I have that background knowledge, and I think that’s huge.

“Some patients walk through the door who you don’t know, and you’re starting from scratch, but when you have a bit of an idea, you pick up a lot of the clinical indicators and the red flags of what could be going on.

“I think that’s an excellent skill to have because you can then transfer that over to the doctors you’ve got at the other end of the phone.

“In a management role, knowing the community is easier than walking into the role and not knowing anything about the community and the people out there.

“It’s all about patient care, continuity of care and keeping the ball rolling to keep the patient safe.”

Working as a nurse can be rewarding, but it can also be a very challenging role.

For Mrs Conomos, nursing became her passion, however, it wasn’t a career path she initially wanted to go down.

“Back when I was applying for university, I was very much into my sport, I still love my sport, so I always wanted to be a PE teacher.

“And at the time, I applied for that, and I applied for nursing as my second preference, and I didn’t get the marks that I required, so I just decided to do nursing.

“But, I have never looked back – I’m glad I chose this career.

“Nursing has its ups and downs, but when you can see a patient’s journey and the outcome is positive and good, it does make you feel really good.

“And even for the patients, whose outcome isn’t going to be good, especially palliative care patients, knowing that you’ve cared for them and done the best that you can to keep them comfortable in those last days of life.

“And the family appreciation, you just can’t undo that.

“As I said, for me, the patient is the priority – you do what you can for them, and that’s what keeps you in nursing.”

In her new position, Mrs Conomos hopes to engage the community more by raising awareness about the services available at Wee Waa Hospital.

“We are looking at a lot of health promotional things over the next 12 months, as in taking some of our services back out to the community.

“Getting the community actively involved and knowing that we’re here not just because it’s an emergency or they need admission to a hospital, but we’re here also as a reference for the health promotion side of things like heart week and stroke week.

“Getting them engaged so they get to know our nursing staff, who we are, what we do, and feeling comfortable enough to be able to come to us for any problems they may have.

“I want to advocate to the community that I’m in this role, and they can contact me.

“The biggest thing, as I said, is keeping that patient journey to the best outcome that we can.

“Sending them to the right people, making sure that their journey is a good one.”

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