Arun Thomas MACN, a Stage Five ACN Emerging Nurse Leader, is an inspiring and emerging leader in the healthcare sector who has a strong focus and passion for leadership, governance, advocacy and aged care. A Registered Nurse, he became one of the youngest public hospital directors in Victoria when he was appointed by Minister of Health in 2017 at Stawell Regional Health, where he currently chairs the Quality & Safety Committee while continuing to provide strategic direction and clinical governance expertise. He is an Adjunct Clinical Associate at the University of South Australia, mentor at Leadership Victoria, an assessor at South Australian Civil & Administrative Tribunal and a panel member at South Australian Health Practitioners Tribunal. We caught up with Arun in the lead up to International Nurses Day 2020.
- What health care setting do you work in?
I am a proud aged care registered nurse who works at Edenhope & District Memorial Hospital. It is a privilege for me to provide great care and safety for our elderly residents and I love the challenges that the aged care industry brings. My areas of expertise are governance, leadership, aged care and advocacy.
- Why did you choose nursing as a career?
I left India thirteen years ago to pursue my tertiary education in Australia. My strong desire to make a positive impact and to help others led me to the completion of a Diploma of Enrolled Nursing at TAFE, followed by a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of South Australia. I see Australia as a land of opportunities. Diligence and commitment to my studies and work, along with engaging with my local community by making meaningful contributions and striving to make a positive difference in all pursuits, has enriched my life beyond measure. For me nursing is not just a career, it’s a way of living by supporting, advocating and championing better health, safety and access on behalf of vulnerable people in the community. I choose this respectful profession to inspire and serve my community through leading by example.
- The theme for this year’s International Nurses Day is Nursing the World to Health: How signiﬁcant is this to you in light of this year’s challenges that the profession has witnessed such as the bushfires and COVID-19?
Nurses are the backbone of our health care system and we are proving that day in day out how invaluable our service, care and commitment to our community through this crisis. As a profession, we are going through some extraordinary times and nurses and frontline workers continue to demonstrate their resilience, kindness, sacriﬁce and courageous leadership. Before we knew it, ﬁreﬁghters passed the baton to us nurses & health care workers to ﬁght against this pandemic crisis. Despite these challenges and adversities nurses continue to show their strength in character and stand tall with kindness and courage.
Whilst the feelings of uncertainty, panic, stress and anxiety are being shared on a mutual, global scale right now, I hope that we can continue to look for the silver lining and hold onto the hidden blessings. Perspective is power.
How often do we get this much education from healthcare professionals for our wellbeing?
How often do we get this much time to stay at home and spend with loved ones?
How often do we get told to work from home instead of travelling afar?
How often do we get an inﬂux of heart-warming stories that restore our hope in humanity?
We all have a choice. We can choose to focus on the pandemonium in our local grocery stores and panic buy or we can turn our gaze towards light, learn, grow, be generous, look after ourselves and our loved ones, do our part and plant seeds of love everywhere we go. It’s all about choosing to be better rather than bitter!
- 2020 has been an unexpected year. What has it been like for you?
2020 has felt like a rollercoaster. Personally, I welcomed the new year with a lot of anticipation and hope. The idea of stepping into a new decade was exciting and I was very much looking forward to celebrating ‘2020 The International Year of Nurse and Midwife’ and had so many plans that I was set on bringing to life as the year unfolded. However, plans began to shift instantly when Australia went up in ﬂames as we watched the lives of many be impacted by the bush ﬁres. Despite the tragedy, hope remained when we witnessed the Australian spirit breakthrough, as always, in the immense relief efforts and support that followed afterwards. But as we began to catch our breath, news broke out of this pandemic. Fireﬁghters passed the baton to the nurses & health care workers. Life as we once knew it has changed drastically. In the midst of all of these changes though, there is a hope that transcends all of the earthly fear and despair we are experiencing on a global scale. Recent times are scary, uncertain and often too daunting, however, by focusing on all of the good that has come out of this particular season I feel like I have been able to move forward. Slowly but surely, life is unfolding in a beautifully mysterious way and I am learning to stay present, enjoy the quiet and be mindful in taking life a day at a time, reaching and looking out for my nursing colleagues and reminding myself that every day is another day closer.
- Is there a message you would like to share with other nurses and health care workers out there on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Nurses and health care workers have always held such a high regard in my eyes and I am privileged to be a part of this community. I believe every Australian, or everyone around the world for that matter, has been in need of the men and women in these professions at some point in their lives and are indebted to their service. In more recent times, the global population has watched in awe as our doctors, nurses and health care professionals have gone above and beyond on the front lines, sacriﬁcing everything, to ﬁght the pandemic and provide comfort to those who are ill, suffering or afraid. Greater love hath no man than this. I do not have words apart from saying thank you to my nursing colleagues who have shown courageous and kind leadership through this crisis. Thank you to the nurses and frontline workers across Australia who have shown greater resilience, mateship and kindness to one another and to the greater community. During these crisis’s, nurses and health care workers mental health is paramount. So in these very uncertain times, don’t ever be afraid or embarrassed to reach out and ask for help, whether it be from a friend, family member, co-worker or a complete stranger. As scary as this all is, this is also one of the rare occasions where the whole world truly is in it together. And together we will get through it – even if we have to stand three feet apart (social distancing). Please never suffer in silence.
- How are you planning to celebrate International Nurses Day this year?
It will be a day to celebrate, recognise and acknowledge the true warriors in our health care system, the unsung heroes – Our nurses & midwives. A day to reﬂect the crucial contribution nurses make to the Australian health care system each and every day. I will be speaking at the ACN Melbourne region’s International Nurses Day event on the topic – ‘Being a leader in Nursing’. I will also be taking a minute silence for the fallen key frontline workers across the world. I will be reaching out to my nursing colleagues and thanking them for their incredible commitment and dedication to the profession.