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Vaccination – speak up loudly, reasonably and often
The awards just keep coming for Professor Sabina Knight, a key player in the creation of the Council of Remote Area Nurses of Australia (CRANA) back in 1983, the organisation that led to CRANAplus in 2008. She is currently Director and Professor at the Murtupuni Centre of Rural and Remote Health, James Cook University headquartered in Mount Isa. The latest award is becoming a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours for her work in regional and remote healthcare, education and nursing. She was also selected for the Queen’s Birthday 2021 COVID-19 honour roll.
No stranger to lobbying and advocacy over the past 40 years, Professor Sabina Knight has taken the opportunity with this latest award to urge the nursing community to purposely use their position in one of the most trusted professions throughout Australia to speak “regularly, reasonably and often” in support of vaccination for COVID-19.
“Never has there been a time more important for nurses to speak up as advocates,” says Sabina, who is one of three CRANAplus representative on the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce.
“We as nurses are a trusted voice in the community. We really have got to activate that position of trust with this issue. Every nurse has got to do it. We have to honour our profession and code of ethics – which requires us to use evidence-based science in clinical decision making and our work; to talk to our colleagues, our neighbours, family, friends and the community. Keep talking. Be available to community organisations, media, work groups and talk.”
Sabina would like to see a strategic, strong nurse-led campaign to improve the uptake of the vaccination.
“We have been a bit slow as advocates,” Sabina says. “It’s time now to be strategic and proactive to deal with the uncertainty and hesitancy in the general community. We know how to live and work with uncertainty but the general population is not used to changing advice with emerging evidence.
“We are already active and engaged in adult and child immunisation and have some of the best coverage in Australia so should use this confidence to promote vaccination against COVID-19 and remind people that they may still get the infection but will not get seriously ill or potentially die from it.
“In these times, we definitely want people to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and we have to deal with conflicting information, changing advice and conspiracy theories to reassure people and help them to understand the risks and benefits in accurate and understandable terms.
“I am eminently proud of what we have done within CRANAplus, but I am also very proud of my fellow RANs who have and continue to get involved in rural development, capacity building, leadership and leadership programmes, regional development boards and so forth. Remote Area Nurses and health professionals and nurses in general are well aware of the social determinants of health – the close relationship between health and people’s living and working conditions – and that’s why many are involved in action and activities outside the purely clinical environment,” says Sabina.
“Health is political, isn’t it? Health care resources are finite and the remote voice is important to ensure appropriate access and distribution. We’ve got to speak up collectively and reasonably – well informed by evidence. And, in my opinion, at this particular moment, it’s time we speak up, fully support and advocate for the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out.”
Sabina’s latest award follows a double achievement in 2020 – as the recipient of the prestigious Aurora Award, which CRANAplus awards each year to recognise an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to remote health, having previously been recognised in 2004.
She is a Centenary Medallist, and also is pleased that this is the year when a community campaign she initiated in 2012, in conjunction with other advocates, has finally reaped rewards with new federal government standards that will require all quad bikes be fitted with crush protection devices and other safety features at the point of sale.
Catch Sabina at the CRANAplus 2021 Virtual Symposium. Find out more and register now.