Andrew Cameron OAM
A seven-hour round-trip through the Simpson Desert to retrieve an injured motorcyclist would discourage most.
For nurse and midwife Andrew Cameron OAM (GradCertHealthEc 1996) it’s these unexpected twists and turns as Director of Nursing at Birdsville Clinic in Queensland that reinforce his passion for nursing.
“Nursing is a great career, opening up an extraordinary array of opportunities,” Andrew says.
“I thought I could try my hand at some of them and in doing so learn as much as possible along the way – and have an interesting life.
"I have worked as a general ward nurse, an intensive care nurse, in oncology, in operating theatres, in public health and as a trained midwife in a labour ward.”
Andrew is confronted daily by many out-of-the-ordinary obstacles at what is essentially one of Australia’s most remote clinics.
“You have to be resourceful with what you have. One has to plan ahead and be prepared for any type of case presentation that may appear at the door.
"More often than not I have to do this alone. It is not so easy knowing that you may be called upon to deal with any type of case, from paediatrics and geriatrics to public health or trauma.”
The former Australian Nurse of the Year says knowing that he gives 100 per cent attention to everyone he is fortune enough to help is what he loves most about his work.
And with many of the Birdsville population of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, he has strong ideas about how best to improve the health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
“Supporting Indigenous early childhood development, improving remote Indigenous housing, a focus and investment in schooling, increasing economic and social partnership, continuing to improve local Indigenous governance and leadership, will all augment and improve health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.”
The Florence Nightingale Medal recipient also works as a Red Cross aid worker and has been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Kenya, Georgia and, more recently, Sierra Leone as an Infectious Diseases Nurse helping fight the Ebola virus.
He believes his work in such dangerous and far-flung places is necessary – “Somebody has to do it” he puts simply – and cites his two years stationed in Afghanistan as the highlight of his international aid work.
“The Afghans are lovely people; innovative, warm and generous. They have suffered and endured many wars over the centuries. It was a privilege to have lived among them and for that I am grateful."
Andrew plans to continue his work at Birdsville Clinic and as an international aid worker, and has the following advice for Monash students and graduates who wish to pursue a similar profession.
“Study as much as possible, learn whatever you can from those with expertise, and put fear aside to follow your dreams.”