Bendigo Honours student wins national nursing award

Bendigo Honours student wins national nursing award

25 Jul 2011

A Bendigo nurse and La Trobe University student has won the coveted Graduate Nurse of the Year Award. An elated Zena Coffey says she had not expected to win.

nurseThe award recognises nurses who excel across a wide range of criteria, including a strong commitment to quality, displaying a professional and caring manner with patients and fellow employees.

A key factor to Ms Coffey’s win is her ability to excel in emotionally charged environments, as evidenced in her reaction to a cardiac arrest incident at the doors of the Austin Hospital in Heidelberg.

‘I was on my way to night duty when a car pulled into the front of the emergency department with its hazard lights on. I thought it was a bit strange so I walked out to the car’ said Ms Coffey.

‘As I got closer the man opened the door and fell out onto the pavement. He was having crushing chest pain. I called out to the nurses at triage and told them there was a code blue – indicating a cardiac arrest – in the car park. They were there in seconds with the emergency trolley.
‘I was nervous. I could tell he was very scared so I just tried to be calm and to reassure him that help was on the way. I told him to take slow, deep breaths and try to relax.’

La Trobe University’s Professor in Rural and Regional Nursing, Dr Isabelle Ellis said for a graduate nurse with limited training Ms Coffey handled the situation extremely well.

‘We are thrilled about the award. It came as a surprise, not because Zena isn’t good enough to win, but because she didn’t tell anyone up here that her aunt had nominated her for the award. She is very humble, and very committed.’

While working at Austin Hospital Ms Coffey developed a system of body language signs, cue cards and alphabetical charts for neurological patients who have trouble talking or who don’t speak English.

‘I put myself in the patient’s shoes and thought how terrible it must be to not be able to say what you want or need. That’s why I decided to try to help facilitate communication for these patients.’

Ms Coffey won a $2500 travel voucher and $2500 towards her further education.

‘I wish to continue to increase my knowledge as a nurse in different areas of the field. It is such a diverse career that I want to learn as much as I can and be the best nurse I can be.’

She is currently in her Honours year at La Trobe University Bendigo and working part time at the White Hills medical clinic.





Zena Coffey will be at La Trobe Bendigo Campus discussing her award and plans for career and further study with Isabelle Ellis, Professor of Rural & Regional Nursing


10.00 am Thursday 28 July 2011


Health and Human Sciences Building, Level 2 Room 10


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Zerin Knight, Ph (03) 5444 7375 F (03) 5444 7526 M 0428 463 161 E
Tom O’Callaghan, Ph (03) 5444 7415 F (03) 5444 7526 M 0408 900 469 E




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