A Good Nurse: the world a little less for her loss & a little more for her legacy

Remembering a fine nurse scholar today… Emeritus Professor Barbara Hayes OAM, who died yesterday from cancer.

I gained my Bachelor of Nursing Science at James Cook University (JCU), Townsville, Australia. At that time, Barbara was the inaugural Head of School of Nursing – a brand new nursing program delivered for the first time at JCU. Taking on the new, trailblazing a way forward for nursing education – not an easy gig! Never-the-less, a challenge well tackled by Barbara – she was able to set the foundation for what is now a strong and well established School of Nursing, Midwifery and Nutrition, respected nationally and internationally.

As an undergraduate, I complained and grizzled about what we were required to do as part of the curriculum, it was hard work… and I found studying and balancing family and work very difficult at times. But as I reflect back on those times, I can see great value in my time as an undergraduate at JCU Nursing under Barbara Hayes leadership. As an academic myself these days – I can see the other side of the coin! Learning to be a nurse, and to remain a nurse, is hard work! It is a hall mark of the profession… I grizzle less these days, and now I rather count it a privilege to be counted as a professional nurse, and an honour to serve people in the capacity of a nurse (clinician, teacher or researcher).

I am very proud of my undergraduate training –it was of an extraordinary quality and it seems it was a special time and place for me and some of my peers. A dream of mine was nurtured further at JCU … to one day be a nurse researcher. From the very beginning of my career (even as a Trainee Enrolled Nurse!) I had a dream to find out more about health and well-being, and to find ways that nurses could contribute more strongly to the health care of populations. Such a dream (even as an undergraduate) was nurtured in the early 1990’s at JCU… a belief about the possible and attainable was encouraged. Barbara Hayes was part of that… She was the first nurse I had met with a PhD, and she encouraged the pursuit of nursing research and excellence in those around her. I recall her addressing our year, and her lecturing and even in some tutorials warmly J. She was inspirational and she encouraged us (my student colleagues spread between the Aurora and Egalitarian groups) to press forward to understand people sufficiently that we could be in a position to help people achieve health, well-being and recovery in their own lives. She was kind and compassionate to others – and expected that we would be professional nurses who would have a similar disposition. Positive expectations such as these are motivational – and my colleagues from that time rose to the expectation I am pleased to say.

What I find especially striking about my time, and peers at JCU is that, despite being a relatively small group, in a new nursing program…. A number of us are now nursing academics… It was a special time, and clearly I was not the only one who chose the nurse academic and researcher path. It amazes me to think that a cohort of nursing academics were developing our careers at that time, together… a clear sign of an important era at JCU, in hindsight.

I have had lots of different and interesting nursing positions during my career – and I love helping people with their health problems… I love even more finding new ways to promote health (… I could go on!). But, no matter how good a clinical nurse you are, you can still only help a few people each shift. What I love about teaching nursing is that, I can teach lots of future nurses (100’s) to help a few people each shift… exponentially that is 1000’s of people! It is exciting, motivating, and a hugely significant responsibility all at once. It is a privilege that I take very seriously.

Barbara Hayes was a fine nurse scholar – still publishing literature with 2014 papers just released… She has mentored and inspired many nurses. She has been responsible for the high quality of health care of thousands upon thousands of people. She was a remarkable and influential nurse, who was held in high regard by many. The world is a little less for her loss; however it is a little more for her legacy. That is, the many nurses that have been taught by her, and who nurse others as a result – her legacy will go on. Those of us who have come after her now have a responsibility to step up to the mark set by Barbara. Those of us who are now nursing teachers, academics and researchers, and who had the privilege of her leadership and influence in our careers have a bigger responsibility to ensure that her legacy continues and that we honour her memory in the way that we carry nursing forward in the future.

Today I remember and honour a remarkable woman. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to train at JCU during her time at the JCU Nursing helm. I recognise her leadership of the nursing profession and I take up the baton left behind to follow her legacy.

Rest in peace Barbara Hayes. 17 March 2014

 

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