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Vaccination – speak up loudly, reasonably and often

30 Aug 2021

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.