Thursday May 9, 2024

International Day of the Midwife (Sunday 5 May) and International Nurses Day (Sunday 12 May) recognises the impact nurses and midwives have on the community Eastern Health serves. 

To recognise and honour the incredible work across the professions, Eastern Health hosted the Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards.

Eight recipients who embody Eastern Health values and work towards our promise to be Healthier Together were recognised across seven award categories.

Adam Williams addressing the crowd
Julie Considine addressing the crowd

Rising Leader Award – Kennedy Kimiti

The Rising Leader award recognises an early career nurse or midwife who demonstrates passion for their work through exemplary practice, engagement of others, creativity and leadership.

In his first 18 months Registered Nurse, Kennedy Kimiti has embraced his entry in to the profession and shown incredible dedication.

“I am truly thrilled and honoured to receive the Rising Leader award. It’s a moment of immense gratitude for the recognition of my efforts. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported me, especially my manager on Ward 8.2, Melinda Rohloff, who created an environment where I could flourish. This journey has been a significant learning experience, and I’m excited to continue growing and contributing to our team’s success,” he said.

Mr Kimiti has been proactive in learning the in charge role and under his own steam, created in-services and distributed them to the junior staff.

“My journey into healthcare began when I fell ill at 13 and spent an extended period in the hospital. The nurses who cared for me became my lifeline during a challenging time. Despite the pain and anxiety, they made every effort to lift my spirits and bring joy into my days.

“Their compassion and dedication inspired me to pursue a career where I could make a similar difference in others’ lives, providing comfort and care during their most vulnerable moments,” Mr Kimiti said.


Finalists: Alethea Vassiliadis, Ebony Keenan, Ebony Williams, Eleanor Perry, Jack De Valle, Jessica Williams and Kaitlyn Zethof

Kennedy Kimiti with their award

Clinical Leadership Award –
Tracey Porter

The Clinical Leadership award recognises a nurse or midwife leader who role models exceptional clinical practice where person centred, safe, high quality care is consistently demonstrated in their practice.

Nurse Unit Manager, Tracey Porter Always goes above and beyond for her staff, supporting and advocating for them when challenges arise.

“As a Nurse Unit Manager I love being able to join the dots; to put the right people in the right places and share their knowledge with all. This ensures good treatment plans for our patients, shared skills with our staff and great learning opportunities for all,” she said.

Ms Porter inspires others through her positive leadership behaviours and creates an environment where professional growth and development is nurtured. Above all, she ensures that everyone feels heard and supported.

“On reflection I believe the reason I perform so well is because of the team around me.

“Clinical Leadership is about having confidence in our ability to make clinical decisions, to trust in our knowledge and experience and to share and trust in those you work with. It encompasses the whole team and ensure that we respect all opinions,” Ms Porter said.

Finalists: Anita Leonard, Arna Poci, Georgia Stiekema, Hannah Halliday, Jijo Mathews, Laura Hahn, Rebecca Sedgman and Susan Aranha

Tracy Porter with their award

Leading Improvement, Research and Innovation in Nursing and Midwifery – Sarah Verdonck

This award recognises a nurse or midwife who has demonstrated outstanding commitment in leading improvement, research or innovation at Eastern Health. They have consistently strived to imbed contemporary nursing and midwifery practice promoting positive patient outcomes.

Embedded Practitioner Mental Health, Sarah Verdonck has shown excellence in guiding all staff through the implementation of the new Mental Health Act across a number of program areas.

“I find the feeling of being a part of a bigger change the most rewarding. Seeing the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system unfold, as someone who is very invested in the delivery of mental health care both personally and professionally is very exciting. The new mental health legislation was a key recommendation from the Royal Commission that really underpins the transformation agenda and so I feel very honoured to be able to have this implementation be a part of my work,” she said.

Ms Verdonck has developed a number of tools for the tracking and communicating of legislative requirements and has presented an empathic and professional response to all parties involved in the roll out.

“We heard the voices of our consumers and what they need, what our carers and loved ones need and we also importantly heard our clinicians as well and we are now in a space where we are committed to respond and make some really meaningful and transformative change.”

Finalists: Alex Lebani, Clare Neale, Jacob Dowling, Jessica Graham, Katalin Pal and Madeline Hawke

Sarah Verdonck with their award

Staff Engagement and Wellbeing – Louise Sebafundi

The Staff Engagement and Wellbeing award recognises an individual or team who have promoted the importance employee wellbeing and engagement in the workplace.

Manager Nursing and Midwifery Workforce, Louise Sebafundi has proactively developed and implemented strategies focused on improving the work environment and consistently create welcoming and supportive spaces.

“The most rewarding part of my role is helping to build a workforce that is skilled, equipped and passionate about delivering excellent care to patients. In this competitive healthcare climate, I find it rewarding and challenging to be part of working to attract and retain nurses and midwives that develop our profession, and align with the organisation, values and goals,” she said.

Ms Sebafundi fosters a culture of inclusion, balance, equity, learning and development and has made an impression on her colleagues with her positive and enthusiastic approach to her profession.

“I think I was initially drawn to nursing by my desire to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives every day. Nurses play a crucial role in the healthcare system, providing compassionate support and advocacy for patients, and I feel privileged to have been part of this profession,” Ms Sebafundi said.

Finalists: Edel Doyle, Julie Conway, Katie Moon, Kim Irvine, Leanne Goldsbrough and Sharon Jolly

Louise Sebafundi with their award

Promoting and Demonstrating Excellent Patient Experience – Katrina Wragg & Simone Morris

This award celebrates a nurse or midwife who consistently promotes excellent patient and family experiences.

Transplant patients, medical and nursing staff all trust and rely on Nurse Consultant, Katrina Wragg, who has been acknowledged for enhancing consumer experiences.

“I’m honoured to receive this recognition. Creating a positive patient experience is a core value of the Cancer Services CNC team, and so I acknowledge the work of my colleagues in this space as well.

“We work hard to improve processes to ensure people experiencing a cancer diagnosis transition through various aspects of cancer care smoothly; providing expert education, care coordination and support to improve the patient experience and provide high quality healthcare. It is lovely to be recognised for the work we do,” she said.

Ms Wragg develops relationships with consumers and their families to assist them in navigating the transplant path. 20 years on from her placement on the Cancer Unit at Eastern Health Box Hill, she still feels there is so much to learn and new skills to develop.

“I enjoy the challenge of working within a multidisciplinary healthcare team to deliver cancer care; refining processes to improve the patient experience. It is a role that I find incredibly challenging at times, but hugely rewarding,” Ms Wragg said.

Through their partnership in care, Family Nurse Aboriginal Health Team, Simone Morris has also made a significant impact on how patients experience health care services at Eastern Health. Her actions promote a safe, welcoming, inclusive environment for all patients and their families.

“Although an individual award, this is undoubtedly a testament to the care and dedication of the wider Aboriginal Health Team in our ongoing commitment to improving patient experiences and access to health care services,” she said.

Ms Morris has been pioneering in closing the gap while creating access and education for First Nations babies and their mothers. She works closely with the Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers, forming a partnership that solidifies Eastern Health values and creates better health outcomes for First Nations people.

“It is incredibly rewarding to develop relationships and partner with families and individuals to achieve improved health outcomes and assist in accomplishing health and wellbeing goals. This rapport with members of the community is built through hearing individual experiences, values and stories. Working within the Aboriginal Health Team enables me the opportunity to learn from fellow staff, patients and community members and organisations to help continue exercising the highest level of care, trust and respect for Aboriginal culture, country, history and people,” Ms Morris said.

Finalists: Amanda Purdue, Corinna White, Diana Pagalia-Scott, Jannet Joseph, Kathryn Baker, Katie Graham, Leanne Watson, and Wenwen Jiang

Simone Morris with their award
Katrina Wragg with their award

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Award for Nurses – Samantha Merry

The Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Award for Nurses recognises excellence in leadership and outstanding practice. The award celebrates a significant contribution at the local level and to the broader professional community.

Registered Mental Health Nurse, Samantha Merry has been described as an inspirational nurse who is empathetic, compassionate and dedicated to the people she works with.

“I was drawn to the human aspect of mental health and working with an ever changing client and staffing group. It’s dynamic and each day is different. I am stunned, humbled and honoured to be the recipient of such an important award,” she said.

Ms Merry goes out of her way to ensure her colleagues feel well supported and that new staff feel welcomed. She is always happy to share her wealth of knowledge from her years of working in mental health and offers an excellent level of support to many consumers.

“The most rewarding part of my role is to see the consumers I work with moving through illness to recovery and the impact this has on their wider community as a result of their recovery. I enjoy growing the next generation of mental health clinicians.”

Finalists: Jessica Naqqash, Christine Whitkopp and Brittany Williams

Samantha Merry with their Award

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Award for Midwives – Brindie Feil

The Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Award for Midwives award recognises excellence in leadership and outstanding practice. The award celebrates a significant contribution at the local level and to the broader professional community.

Clinical Midwife Consultant and Authorised Midwife, Brindie Feil had a significant role in the review, redesign and launch of the Childbirth and Early Parenting Education Program. She is also recognised as the first Authorised Midwife of Eastern Health.

“Everyone in healthcare goes to work aspiring to do a good job and have a positive impact on those around them, both colleagues and the community. To receive this kind of recognition is just incredible, and I feel very lucky to have been supported and encouraged by my managers and team along the way,” she said.

Ms Feil is described as working tirelessly to support midwives of every level of experience in the hospital setting while also working to reach her full potential.

“Working alongside a team of clinicians who share the same passion in recognising the scope of practice of midwives which enables seamless access to continuity of midwifery care for birthing people is very uplifting. That support and validation enables a seamless delivery of care to our community, and I find that incredibly rewarding,” she said.

Finalists: Meaghan Flanagan, Georgia Himmelreich and Caroline Carr

Brindie Feil with their award