UOW nursing lecturer Christopher Patterson. Photo: Paul Jones

UOW nursing lecturer honoured in International Year of the Nurse

UOW nursing lecturer honoured in International Year of the Nurse

Christopher Patterson says nurses have demonstrated hard work, community spirit during tough year

The past few months have, once again, highlighted the tremendous role that nurses play in our daily lives.

It is a familiar theme throughout history. In times of war, famine, disaster, and pandemic, nurses are on the frontline, helping the community, providing vital healthcare, and often simply being there for the worst moments in our lives.

Christopher Patterson, from the University of Wollongong’s School of Nursing, is a lecturer, registered nurse, and PhD student. A specialist in mental health, he is a champion of nurses and of the often unsung role they play in our society.

In the July 2020 issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly, Christopher is featured in a series on the International Year of the Nurse. It comes at the same time as Christopher was named Nurse of the Month for June by the NSW Nursing and Midwifery Association and a year after he was recognised as Nurse of the Year by the Australian College of Nursing.

The Australian Women’s Weekly piece highlights his passion for nursing and, in particular, his work with the University of Wollongong’s Recovery Camp, which he co-founded alongside Professor Lorna Moxham.

“It is a real honour to be featured,” Christopher said. “it is always really positive to see how respected nurses are. It reminds the community of the great work that is done by nurses, often hidden work, and how important they are to the community. 

“Nurses, and the nursing profession, are really adaptable. We are able to be there in ways that people need, during disasters such as the recent bushfires, and then we are able to adjust and deliver connection and care in a global pandemic.

“Nurses are able to fit into the spaces that the community needs.”

Christopher’s love of nursing comes from his desire to help others and create a connection during a person’s toughest moments. Empathy is at the heart of much of his work as a nurse and as a researcher. 

“Working with people was something really attracted me to nursing. When I found mental health nursing as a student, I knew that was the area in really wanted to work in.”

Recovery Camp is one of Christopher’s proudest achievements. Alongside Professor Moxham and a team of multidisciplinary researchers, brought together by UOW’s Global Challenges Program, the initiative began seven years ago as a five-day recreational camp for people living with mental illness, held once a year.

It gave them the opportunity to spend time in nature, taking part in activities such as rock climbing, art, archery, and bush dancing, while also providing vital training for students undertaking degrees in nursing, mental health, psychology, dietetics and midwifery. 

Since then, the team have delivered Recovery Camp to 11 universities nationwide and trained more than 800 students. Recovery Camp has changed the approach to people with mental illness; it has taken a more empathic and person-centred approach to their treatment and support, with most participants describing the experience as life changing and, in some cases, life saving.

Recovery Camps are now delivered several times a year, to keep up with demand from both participants and students. 

“It has been a real success and has grown so much since we held the first Recovery Camp seven years ago,” Christopher said.

“It is very much a team effort, led by Lorna. It has had such an incredible impact on the lives of so many. It is really rewarding to know that the team is delivering such positive change for people with mental illness.”