Nurses make the difference

My passion for nursing began in childhood when I practiced on the dog and then fence posts that were more accepting of my ministrations. My dad introduced me to Florence Nightingale and her legacy for health and wellbeing, which is still as relevant today as it was in the Crimea.  

I learned ‘nursing’ from insightful GPs who believed every person has a story: the art is to hear their story and work with them to decide their care: that is to personalise care. I was also inspired by Lucy Osborne, the first Nightingale trained nurse in Australia. Lucy faced similar attitudes and conditions in the colony of Sydney to those Florence encountered in the Crimea. Poignantly, Lucy died from complications of type 2 diabetes after she retired and returned to her homeland, England. I have been a diabetes nurse educator for over 30 years. My ‘real’ diabetes knowledge was gleaned from people with diabetes and their families. My focus is on improving health professionals’ capacity to help older people with diabetes and those at the end of life to live well, through my research, guidelines and publications, such as Diabetes Education: Art, Science and Evidence. Nurses must be able to describe what they do to enable others to see its value. The book is an amalgamation of my reflections on my reading, research and conversations with colleagues and people with diabetes.

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic sparked new challenges and new learning in 2020. People with diabetes, as well as older people without diabetes are adversely affected by SARs-CoV-2. They require significant support and personalised care to maintain dignity, spiritual, mental and physical health (wellbeing). I have been very privileged to learn from and with people with diabetes and their families about the many guises of “wellbeing,’ and its close links to what people value: the importance of living well to their end of life. People with diabetes do not define wellbeing on functional parameters alone. It is a much more holistic concept that encompasses their sense of self, dreams, aspirations, dignity and values.

It is worth remembering that Florence Nightingale stated ‘Nursing is an art… perhaps the finest art.’ I have always believed that nursing care is a blend of art and science and both are equally important, especially helping people live with chronic conditions, like diabetes. Health professionals have a responsibility to know as much as they can about how to help people live well – and the art to show them how. Nurses and Midwives have a responsibility to reflect in and on their practice in order to grow professionally and to educate others through teaching, research and publications. High quality diabetes care helps people with diabetes adopt relevant self-care practices to preserve their health and wellbeing and advocates to ensure they have the resources to do so.

Finally, the International Diabetes Federation designated World Diabetes Day 2020 (14th November) as the day of the Diabetes Nurse Educator. I acknowledge all Diabetes Nurse Educators and Nurses and Midwifes and their contribution to global health and wellbeing.

Professor Trisha Dunning
Chair in Nursing (Barwon Health)
Deakin University 
Faculty of Health
School of Nursing & Midwifery
Melbourne Burwood Campus

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Professor Trisha Dunning

Deakin University, Australia

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