17th May 2013

Remote Eye Health Nurse Shortlisted for Top Honours

With an ‘office’ covering an area of 1.2 million square kilometres and visits to 27 communities, Heather Wilson knows the meaning of remote.

The nurse, who is the Regional Eye Health Coordinator for Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Regional Health Services Division), was recently shortlisted in the Remote Health category in the Northern Territory Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards.

The Awards have been held annually since 2004 to recognise the skills and contributions of NT nurses and midwives and were held to coincide with International Nurses Day. Categories for the awards include Graduate of the Year; Aged, Disabled and Residential Care; Enrolled Nurse; Education, Research and Innovation; Hospital Care; Leadership; Living Legend; Mental Health; Midwifery; Remote Health; and Primary Health Care Services.

Heather’s role as Regional Eye Health Coordinator is to provide administration, logistics, monitoring and evaluation, management, clinical activities and coordination of visiting eye health services to eye health patients, scheduling eye health specialist visits and liaison with clinics, hospitals and the communities that host the visiting services. She has developed an ongoing communication with major stakeholders including the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Alice Springs Hospital, Fred Hollows Foundation (FHF), and Centre for Disease Control (CDC) trachoma department.

Heather travels remotely with the visiting locum optometrists who travel to the Territory from interstate, driving on dirt roads to the remote communities. The distance on any given trip may cover over 1000 km in a week.

Heather has been a long-time local to Central Australia and Alice Springs for over 28 years. She is a mother of four children and started as a nurse in the 1970s at the Naracoorte Hospital in South Australia, before moving to Alice Springs to work at the Alice Springs Hospital in the 1980s. She was a full-time mother for over 12 years and then returned to the workforce at Charles Darwin University in Children’s Services, lecturing in this area for seven years. She has worked as a trachoma educator and training facilitator for three years before moving into the area of eye health.

Heather’s contribution to remote eye health was recognised by several optometrists with whom she works.

“It was a great surprise to be nominated for the NT Nursing and Midwifery Awards, but even more of a surprise to be shortlisted,” Heather commented. “It was an honour to attend the prestigious awards in Darwin and to represent Congress and Alice Springs.”

Heather was one of three finalists in the Remote Health category, which was awarded to Michele Smith.