Changemakers, caregivers, and community leaders

This International Nurses Day, meet three exceptional alumni nurses and honour their careers in leadership, compassion, and service.

Nurses play a vital role in our healthcare system. They provide essential care and support to patients in hospitals, clinics, and communities around the world. On International Nurses Day, we honour the dedication and hard work of our bedside practitioners, team caregivers, and leaders in the nursing field.

To mark this important occasion, we invite you to meet three of our nursing alumni; the Co-Director of Birdsville hospital, nursing soldiers and civilians in Ukraine, a recent graduate now working as a travelling nurse in the United Kingdom, and the Head of Nursing at Singapore’s National Skin Centre. Take a closer look at their contributions to the field and celebrate their careers in leadership, compassion and service.

Andrew Cameron is caring for soldiers on the front line in Ukraine

Andrew Cameron and soldiersMeet Distinguished Alumnus Andrew Cameron OAM. He's the Co-Director of Birdsville Hospital, one of the most remote clinics in Australia. Andrew has worked in some incredibly dangerous places in the world, including warzones in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen, and an Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone. With a career spanning more than three decades, Andrew’s passion is helping people.

Today, Andrew is on leave from his position in Birdsville to nurse wounded soldiers and civilians in Ukraine.

Can you describe an impactful nursing experience you’ve had since graduating?

Oh, there is such a varied scope of practice environments in nursing.

From being a nurse in the toughest prisons in Afghanistan, retrieving injured travellers from the Simpson Desert, delivering babies in Kenya, to my current job as a nurse in Ukraine… I've experienced and learned so much that I wouldn't have in any other profession.

Is working in your field what you imagined?

Initially no, not so much. But as I went along, I discovered that you do not have to be locked into anything for years on end if you don’t want to be. It has been a true privilege to work as a nurse for as long as I have. I have had many wonderful experiences – and inevitably a few regrets along the way – however I'm still committed to life-long learning and doing what I can to help others with their health.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about nurses?

Many people think that a nurse is simply there to follow what the doctor has ordered. However, in many settings, nurses have far more interesting roles. For example, I'm currently a nurse in Ukraine, where I care for soldiers and civilians who have been injured, both physically and psychologically, in a horrific ongoing war. This also means caring for their relatives, the displaced, and so on.

"Many have lost everything except for the shirt on their back. I must be innovative to use limited resources in an effective manner… and if I can find a way as a nurse to make the daily lives of those suffering even the slightest bit better, then I feel heartened, knowing that something has been accomplished."

Looking back, how do you think studying at La Trobe helped shape your nursing journey?

Studying at La Trobe gave me the foundations of knowledge on which to base my future practice.

"La Trobe was a very supportive environment as I remember, and I still have friends from those days."

Andrew completed a Bachelor of Nursing (1992).

Fawzia Abkar gives back to the community to help those most in needFawzia Abkar

Fawzia Abkar is a recent graduate of La Trobe. She spent the last 12 months completing a Graduate Nursing Program in Scotland where she worked in critical care to support patients and reunite them with their families.

Now, Fawzia is moving to England to gain more vital nursing experience across the United Kingdom. We spoke with her to gain new insights into her role as an early-career nurse.

What – or who – inspired you to become a nurse?

I was born in Darfur, Sudan. There was already a shortage of resources – whether that be education, food or proper housing – it lacked them all.

After the genocide in 2003, Darfur lost even more of its already limited resources, such as medicine. I watched many people die from illness and conditions that could have been treated easily with the right medicine, like antibiotics.

"I have always had the heart of wanting to make a difference. Volunteering was one of the ways I could give back to the community and help those in needs – nursing was just the next step."

What’s the biggest misconception people have about nurses?

People believe nurses only follow doctors' orders, but it’s actually the other way around. Working in an intensive care unit for the past 16 months, no doctor touches a patient without a nurse’s permission or makes changes to a patient's care plan without consulting the nurses first.

How do you think the nursing profession will change over the next 20 years?

I believe if the nursing profession continues to operate and function as it currently is, there will be a huge shortage of nurses. With what has happened throughout COVID-19 and beyond, it has already led many nurses to burn out. So many nurses have left the profession. If the government does not make positive changes for nurses within the next 20 years, it will cause a devastating impact on the industry.

Looking back, how do you think studying at La Trobe helped shape your nursing journey?

I was privileged enough to study at the La Trobe Shepparton Campus. The culture and support I had while studying there played a huge role in the success of my studies.

Fawzia completed her Bachelor of Nursing at La Trobe (2021).

Brenda Lim is responsible for the wellbeing of her patients and team

Brenda Lim Distinguished Alumna of La Trobe Brenda Lim currently leads the Nursing Department at Singapore’s National Skin Centre and is a pioneer member of the Association of Diabetes Educators.

Brenda is an expert in her field. Over the course of her career, she has improved standards of dermatology and diabetes education nursing by establishing the Singapore Nurses Association’s Dermatology Nurses Chapter (2012), the Asian Dermatological Nursing Group (2018), and more.

We met with Brenda to find out what drives her dedication for nursing.

Can you describe an impactful nursing experience you’ve had since graduating?

During my posting in a paediatric ward many years ago, there was a child from Indonesia who was admitted in the unit I was working in.

The child was scheduled for surgery the following day; however, the surgery was postponed because the blood bank did not have an adequate supply of platelets. The family was informed about this, and I felt sorry that this was happening to them on top of everything else they were having to cope with.

After completing my morning shift that day, I went to the blood bank and donated my platelets. The child underwent surgery the next day as scheduled.

"This was one of the best moments of my nursing career."

Is working in your field what you imagined?

No, definitely not! I never imagined that nursing would be so complex. A nurse needs to adapt and learn constantly and that has been my mainstay all throughout my nursing career.

I need to be both competent in technical skills and soft skills—the latter being more critical than ever. The nursing profession is diverse and the patients we are seeing are complex. Both require a good grounding in cultural competence so that I can deliver the best care possible.

As a nurse leader, I also have to set a good example to my team so that we can support one another as nurses, as individuals and as healthcare professionals. It’s challenging to ensure that my team are well mentally and physically, but it's paramount to our success.

"Every day brings a new set of challenges and rewards. My days are full, but they are also satisfying when I see patients recovering and nurses finding fulfilment in their work."

How do you think the nursing profession will change over the next 20 years?

Nursing will need to find a balance between integrating technological innovations in our care and maintaining the humanistic values of our profession.

Nurses must remember that we are first and foremost the human face for our patients and their families when things are really tough for them. Our professional values of kindness, compassion, empathy, integrity, respect, and veracity should never be undermined and become secondary to the rapid technological advances because the values are what set us apart.

Looking back, how do you think studying at La Trobe helped shape your nursing journey?

The opportunity to do both my Bachelor and Master's degree at La Trobe was one of the best learning experiences I’ve had. The critical thinking skills and the diverse subjects covered in both continue to help me today as a Head of Nursing.

In addition, the La Trobe University Alumni Chapter in Singapore is a fantastic support for alumna like me because it’s where I’m able to tap into the expertise and support of other alumni.

Brenda completed a Bachelor of Nursing (2007) and a Master of Nursing (2013).

Are you a nurse and ready to upskill? Check out our range of Nursing and Midwifery short courses!