career

To the unsung heroes of our health industry, this is why we thank you.

HESTA
Thanks to our brand partner, HESTA

On Friday night I had a bit of a doozy. Encouraged by a bit of weight loss I put my engagement and wedding rings back on after their two-year holiday in the bedside drawer. I headed out with some girlfriends feeling triumphant.

That was until I looked down half way through the night and realised that my ring finger was turning a worrying shade of reddish blue. Like when I tried to shove my size 14 hips into my pre-baby size 10 jeans, an angry muffin top had exploded above my engagement ring. By the time I got home it had developed its own ‘heartbeat’ and the pain was horrendous. After failing to compress my finger’s now indigo-coloured swelling, I started to panic and made my way to the local emergency department.

I’m not quite sure what the triage nurse thought when a crazed woman with a blotchy mascara-stained face presented her with a bloated blue finger at 2:30am. All the while crying uncontrollably. Whatever she thought, she didn’t show it. She handed me a tissue and some painkillers and calmly explained that it would all be ok and they would help free my bulging finger from its white gold choke as soon as possible.

"I started to panic and made my way to the local emergency department." Image via iStock.

Half an hour later the same nurse was cutting my rings off my finger while distracting me from the pain with humour and compassion. During my short time in the emergency department I was in awe of her kind and considerate nature, her genuine care for everyone she assisted and her professionalism while dealing with a variety of cases far more serious than mine. As I climbed into bed at 3.30am I decided to write a thank you letter to the nurse who had assisted me through my ridiculous saga and it was then I realised that I didn’t know her name.

That exceptional nurse is just one of the many unsung heroes working in health and community services across Australia. They’re the midwives who held our hands through the pain of childbirth, the nurses who cleaned up the mess during our child’s severe bout of food poisoning and the aged care workers that treat our loved ones like family.

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As someone who has worked in the health sector for the last 13 years, I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most incredible health and community service workers, people who have dedicated their lives to improving the health and wellbeing of others.

Passionate about acknowledging these unsung heroes, superannuation fund HESTA established an awards program to recognise and reward people working in health and community services. Now in its 10th year, the awards program comprises five national awards recognising excellence in nursing and midwifery, aged care, early childhood education and care, the community sector and primary health care.

HESTA awards recognise and reward people working in health and community services. Image via iStock.

Last year’s winner of the community sector Unsung Hero Award was Maureen Crawford, founder of Interchange Incorporated, a member organisation for agencies involved in providing family respite and social opportunities for children and young people with a disability.

Maureen founded Interchange in 1980 when the demands of caring for her son with severe intellectual disabilities became physically and emotionally overwhelming. Aware that there were a number of other carers in a similar situation, Maureen opened the Interchange program to give families who had a child with a disability a regular break through sharing the care with volunteer hosts. From humble beginnings, Interchange Incorporated now assists over 4,000 families through 12 agencies in Victoria each year and has also expanded to South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

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Kerry Uren, CEO of Interchange Incorporated says the HESTA Awards presented a perfect opportunity to recognise Maureen’s work as well as the disability sector as a whole.

“Our experience with the HESTA Awards program has been fantastic. It gave us the opportunity to not only recognise Maureen’s outstanding contribution with establishing the program but also to raise awareness of the challenges that are faced by families who have children with a disability and to acknowledge the incredible work of employees and volunteers in the sector,” says Kerry.

Kerry is full of praise for the unsung heroes who chose to work in challenging roles because of their desire to make a difference.

HESTA Awards acknowledge the incredible work of employees and volunteers in the sector. Image via iStock.

“It takes a very special kind of person to work in the health and community sector…. It would be so easy for them to go and find a job that was less challenging and less confronting but they show up for work every day with a smile on their face, they are just incredible.

Being able to recognise not only individuals but entire teams for their contributions is so important in demonstrating how much we value their commitment to the work they do,” says Kerry.

So to each and every one of them, on behalf of many others, I say thank you. And to the wonderful nurse who assisted me on Friday night, my finger and I will be eternally grateful.

Who would you like to thank in the health industry and why?

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