REFUGEE HEALTHCARE | Nurses make a real difference

South Western Sydney Local Health District hosted the event. Featured: Lindy Marlow, Jan Williams, Sandy Eagar and Leanne Schmidt. Picture: Simon Bennett
South Western Sydney Local Health District hosted the event. Featured: Lindy Marlow, Jan Williams, Sandy Eagar and Leanne Schmidt. Picture: Simon Bennett

Refugees nurses from across the country met at Liverpool last Friday for their first national forum.

The South-Western Sydney Local Health District hosted the Refugee Nurses of Australia who exchanged information, discussed different strategies and recognised the hard work by specialised-care nurses.

Lindy Marlow, chairwoman of Refugee Nurses Australia, said the nurses were important for improving the lives of newly-arrived refugees.

“This organisation was formed because there are a lot of specialised refugee nurses around Australia and we all have different models across each state and territory,” she said.

“Our work is imperative because we’re often trusted by refugees and are one of their first points of contact in this country.

“And often years down the track they’re very thankful for our help. It’s basically a system where we meet with families early on and help them with services and pathways.”

Refugee nurse Kylie McNulty unites with other nurses at the first forum for Refugee health. Picture: Simon Bennett

Refugee nurse Kylie McNulty unites with other nurses at the first forum for Refugee health. Picture: Simon Bennett

NSW Refugee Health Service nurse manager Sandy Eagar said being a refugee nurse was rewarding. She described some of the common healthcare problems nurses face when helping refugees.

“Refugees face a whole lot of challenges when they arrive. The Australian healthcare system is quite complex. We have the time to focus on them – not like a 15-minute GP consultation,” she said.

“A lot of problems they face include untreated chronic diseases, poor dental health, vitamin D deficiency and problems from the affects of trauma or torture, war-related injuries and disabilities.

“However, when it comes to children it’s usually psychological from all they’ve lost, and they present differently to adults. These are all the types of problems refugee nurses look at and often these people don’t know any English.

“One of the great things about this job is seeing people at the end of this journey and some years down the track you might attend the graduation of a child you helped.”

She also said there were often refugees who study and become nurses, giving back to the community and making a difference to Australian healthcare.

The forum was also an opportunity for Liverpool refugee nurses to meet like-minded professionals from around the country.

Kylie McNulty, a refugee nurse at Liverpool, said became a refugee nurse in March.

“I’ve been a nurse for over 20 years now. I worked in public health prior to joining the refugee service. It gave me the opportunity to make a difference,” she said.

“For example, last week I saw a lovely lady who was 86. It was lovely to see how resilient she’s been to just travel and make the trip to Australia from Iraq with no English skills. We have interpreters who help us communicate. 

“I feel very inspired to be part of these people’s lives, even if it’s just for a small time.”

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