International honour for UOW Professor of Primary Health Care Nursing

International honour for UOW Professor of Primary Health Care Nursing

Award recognises outstanding women leaders in nursing and midwifery

Professor Elizabeth Halcomb from the University of Wollongong’s School of Nursing has been named in the 2020 List of 100+ Outstanding Nursing and Midwifery leaders around the world.

The list comes from a partnership of the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Nursing Now, International Council of Nurses (ICN), International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), and Women in Global Health (WGH), and was unveiled to mark the end of the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

It features the achievements and contributions of nurses and midwives from 43 countries, to recognise these women and the millions of nurses and midwives around the world.

Professor Halcomb, who was one of four Australians on the list, said it was a great honour personally but also a significant recognition for the UOW School of Nursing.

“It is humbling to be named on this list with so many amazing nursing and midwifery leaders from across the world. I am extremely grateful for the mentorship I have been fortunate enough to have received and for the support and friendship of my team and colleagues,” she said.

“While 2020 was the WHO Year of the Nurse and Midwife, COVID-19 has really showcased the important role of nurses within the health care team and their impact on health within the community.

“We have seen nurses working on the frontlines of health care in hospital and community settings to ensure that people receive the care that they need not only to deal with COVID but also broader health issues.

“This has highlighted how important the job is that nurses do. I hope that this lesson can help to raise the profile of the profession within the community into the future.”

Professor Halcomb is an international award-winning nurse academic. She was appointed the Inaugural Professor of Primary Healthcare Nursing at the University of Wollongong in 2013, one of only two Australian professorial appointments specific to primary health care nursing.

At UOW, she plays a leadership role developing primary healthcare nursing research, as well as engaging with multidisciplinary primary healthcare academics and clinicians to address the growing challenges in providing healthcare within the community.

A key feature of her work is the way in which she has inspired and mentored novice researchers and clinicians to develop into independent scholars and researchers.

“My proudest achievements are watching the research students learn and grow through their work and knowing that I have played a small part in developing a future generation of nurse researchers,” Professor Halcomb said.

“Given that the field of primary care nursing is relatively new in Australia (in the last 20 years) being able to support the development of a nursing research team working in this area is very satisfying.”

Professor Halcomb leads a strong research programme in primary care nursing, with particular emphasis on nursing in general practice, chronic disease and nursing workforce issues. She also undertakes research around learning and teaching in nursing, evidence based practice and research methodology.

“During 2020 we have been undertaking a series of projects to map Australian primary health care nurses’ experiences around the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

“These have explored issues from the impact of the pandemic on employment, to mental health and telehealth use. This work has helped to ensure that the voices of nurses and their experiences are heard in the public, management and policy settings.”

Professor Halcomb said that the lessons learnt in 2020 would ultimately benefit the primary health care system.

“After such a tumultuous 2020 I am looking forward to the exciting changes in settling into a new normal for our primary health care system,” she said.

“COVID-19 has accelerated changes in the health system that have been talked about for many years. It will be exciting in 2021 to see how these can be embedded into a new system to enhance health care in the community.”

Professor Halcomb also offered some words of advice to students beginning a nursing degree in 2021.

“As a career, nursing offers such diversity – from diverse clinical settings, to roles focussed on expert practice, education, research and management, the possibilities are endless,” she said.

“I would encourage students who are taking their first steps into a nursing career to be brave and bold and explore the range of opportunities that nursing offers, especially beyond the walls of the hospital.

“I challenge new nurses to also embrace the international nursing community and not be scared to reach out and connect with nurses across the world to share knowledge, skills and experiences.”