Anna and her dog Mambo: Photo Provided.
The Australian College of Nursing’s (ACN) Nursing in the Community Week has a proud history of raising public awareness about the crucial role nurses play in caring for them where they need it most, in their local communities. Adjunct Associate Professor Anna M Shepherd FACN (Hon), Executive Chair of Regal Home Health, has been instrumental in the week from its formation. Like Anna, Regal has been involved from the start and is the founding sponsor of Nursing in the Community Week. With the 2021 week approaching, we spoke to Anna to learn about the importance of nurses working in the community, her experience in establishing Nursing in the Community Week and the work of Regal Home Health in over 55 years.
Highlighting the pivotal contribution of nurses working in the community
Anna shared with us the meaningful impact nurses in the community make to the health of their clients and society as a whole.
“Working in the community, you have a unique opportunity to impact overall health outcomes,” she said.
“Having people going to the emergency department is not the best option. Nurses are ideal at getting involved as early as possible in the process of prevention and building frameworks so patients can be cared for at home. If you have a model of health care where nurses are treating people in their own homes, that also has a direct link to reducing GDP, an area which I have done a lot of research in recent years.”
At the heart of this is the trust between patients and nurses working in the community, which has been built over a long period of time.
“The impact of care from somebody you trust can’t be underestimated and that is why year on year nurses are rated as the most trusted professionals,” she says.
“Students go into nursing to make a difference and there is a valued career in nursing in the community.”
The journey to greater recognition for Community Nurses
Anna has dedicated her life to ensuring the crucial contribution of nurses delivering care where it is needed most in their local communities is acknowledged and recognised by the Australian public.
“I joined the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) in 2015. Prior to this I was a member of The College of Nursing and the past Vice President of the Australian Council on Community Nursing and during that time there wasn’t any community nursing week or a profile around community nursing,” she said.
“Community nurses must have a voice at the table, and this has been a lifelong passion of mine. I contacted ACN and they offered a home.”
Anna has been one of the pivotal figures in helping the week and profile of nurses working in the community go from strength to strength over the years.
“I have tirelessly advocated for nursing in the community and last year the week was formally recognised by the Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care,” she said.
“Our peak nursing bodies are now stepping up to advocate for funding for nursing in the community. An example of this was the recent piece by Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN in the Sydney Morning Herald which advocated for this point.”
Regal Home Health: The founding sponsor of Nursing in the Community Week
In addition to her extensive personal contribution outlined above, Anna also has been instrumental in raising the status of nurses in the community through her position as Executive Chair & Co-founder of Regal Home Health; the founding sponsor of Nursing in the Community Week.
Regal Home Health was started by Anna’s mother Patricia Shepherd OAM FACN in 1966, who was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in January 2021, Anna joined her in 1983.
“We have been visionary with how we deliver care in the community and have been doing the future since 1966,” she said.
“In 1994, after lobbying the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS), we became the first private health care company to be accredited under the ACHS and our relationship with The University of Sydney meant we were operating like a virtual teaching hospital; seeing over 1,000 patients a day and having 200 staff in the field.”
“We have also been working with the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association over many years to form a partnership for the week and that happened this year which I am very happy about,” she said.
“This year we also have Medibank and Smith & Nephew onboard as sponsors.”
Anna concluded by sharing her overall ethos when it comes to highlighting her lifetime work of advocating for nurses in the community:
“My aim to achieve is that the community understands the value of nurses and the impact they have on keeping people at home and that younger nurses are inspired to choose a career in nursing in the community.”
ACN will be hosting two special webinars during Nursing in the Community Week. From 4.45pm on Thursday 23 September, Federal Minister for Regional Health and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment The Hon Dr David Gillespie MP will join Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN to launch our Reimagining the Community and Primary Health Care System White Paper. At 5pm, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN will be joined by President of the Australian Primary Health Care Association (APNA) for a webinar titled ‘Leadership – No Health Care Future without Nurse Leaders’. You can register for the webinars here.