ACORN 2016 – A memorable gathering

Sally, Heather, Lois Hamlin, Menna and Ruth Melville

Sally, Heather, Lois Hamlin, Menna and Ruth Melville

Menna Davies

Having just returned from the ACORN Conference in Hobart where over 1000 perioperative nurses gathered for 3 days it got me thinking about why, in this electronic age we still find value in meeting together at conferences. Couldn’t we obtain all the information imparted at a conference via webinars, podcasts or YouTube? Why do we spend hundreds of dollars to travel hundreds of kilometres to spend three days with a thousand fellow perioperative nurses? I think the answer is simple, nothing compares to being in the company of like-minded people, who understand the challenges of being a perioperative nurse in 2016 and who also enjoy having a good time! And so it was at ACORN 2016 in Hobart. Phew, what a buzz! Lots of memorable moments.

But one moment stood out for me and happened by chance, a case of me being in the right place at the right time. One day a woman approached me during the lunch break, ‘Do you recognise me?’ she asked. It is a question I am often asked, usually by post graduate students who I have facilitated on line and who know me, but who, due to only having an online presence, I rarely get to meet face to face! Unfortunately I did not recognise the woman at first and had to tactfully ask (I have become quite good at this over the years) to give me a clue as to where we may have met before.   ‘I’m Heather Moon’ she replied. I don’t think many people at the conference would have known that Heather Moon is a former ACORN President (1986-89). Fortunately I did (perhaps I have just been around ACORN for more years than I care to remember)! What a treat to meet her again, not many perioperative nurses from that era attend ACORN Conferences and her appearance that day was only by accident. She and her husband, David, had been staying at the conference venue the previous week for another event that he was attending. Returning for a further night’s stay, she saw the signs for the ACORN Conference and thought she would pop in to say hello! Heather comes from Queensland and I tracked down the ACORN Board members from the sunshine state, along with Ruth Melville, IFPN President and also a Queenslander who were equally thrilled to meet her. Current President, Jed Duff met Heather and a number of other conference attendees made her so welcome. She was escorted around the trade exhibition in awe at the array of latest equipment and medical devices. Later that day several of us met Heather and David again at the bar and over a few glasses of wine, shared memories of her time as ACORN President using photos I had as part of a montage prepared for a previous conference.

Sharing memories with Heather

Sharing memories with Heather

Heather was thrilled to have met up with so many perioperative colleagues and friends. We all left energised at meeting one of ACORN’s living treasures. It occurred to me after we had said our farewells, how much we owe our predecessors who nearly forty years ago, paved the way for where ACORN is in 2016 by their administrative skills, vision and commitment. In Heather’s day, ACORN was run by volunteers from each state/territory using telephone (no mobiles), snail mail (no email) and fax as the only means of communication, managing to coordinate the publication of the journal and standards, not to mention the enormous task of organising the national conference. Today, ACORN has a secretariat, email, webinars, video/teleconferences and external conference organisers – how times have changed and how much we take for granted!

When it all comes down to it, the conference is all about the people who attend – the networking, renewing of friendships, making new ones, gaining knowledge, sharing solutions to common challenges, meeting people who have influenced your career, have been your mentors or perhaps people you have mentored and above all lots of fun!

I always return from conferences with new ideas and a renewed approach to my work that I feel makes me more effective and efficient. Stephen Covey, in his influential book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, identifies this as ‘sharpening the saw’ – renewing yourself through making meaningful social connections with others, learning, increasing your capacity to face the challenges of life and work. The analogy – a sharp saw will cut more effectively than a dull one! And I think that is so true. ACORN Conference 2016 – memorable!


Covey, S. (1989) The 7 habits of highly effective people. USA:Running Press.

The journey begins

The journey begins at last. After many months of anticipation, reading, chatting, planning and farewells we are now followinFarewell from Greek Consulg the footsteps of the nursing sisters of WWI.

These photos were taken recently at the Greek Consulate in Sydney. Liz Kaydos of the Lemnos Assoc NSW is seen here with cruise organiser Clare Ashton and Dr Stavros Kirimis, the Greek Consul, and I appear in with the second pic below.

We are seen here discussing arrangements for the laying of wreaths for the Australian nurse buried in Thesalonica and for the New Zealand nurses lost at sea when the Marquette was torpedoed. Dr Kirimis told us about the additional commemorations planned by the Greek Consulate for the later in the year including the battle for Crete and evacuation of Australian troops during the Second World War. Farewell from the Greek Consul in SydneyThe third pic is from Sydney University School of Nursing, where Clare and I met Prof Donna Waters who was delighted to see us in the replica nurses’ uniforms. Bit too tight for comfort but they have incredible impact visually.Clare Ashton with Sally Sutherland-Fraser at School of Nursing History display, Sydney UniThe ANZAC nurses spent months at sea travelling via Fremantle, Colombo and the Suez Canal before the real hardships began. In the coming days, our greatest hardship will be navigating the sea of faces in crowded departure lounges and customs halls. Watch this his space for more posts and be sure to check out Clare’s Facebook page First World War ANZAC Nursing Sisters, as well as Dom Sheridan’s page Australian Great War Poetry. Bye for now, Sally.

Real ANZAC Girls

I’m heading off in search of the Real Anzac Girls, joining a 7-day cruise from Athens to Istanbul with a group of Aussies and Kiwis. Not being one for cruises, I am more than a little surprised by this, but this really is a cruise with a difference…

It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to commemorate the achievements of the Anzac nurses and to visit the WWI sites I have reReal Anzac Girlsad about in so many books, not least of which is Anzac Girls by Peter Rees. Some of you will have seen the TV mini-series based on Peter’s book. Or perhaps you have read Menna’s post from last year ANZAC GIRLS – WARTIME SOAP? If so, then you’ll have an idea of some of the places that we’ll be visiting. Iff not, here’s a quick itinerary:

Professor Christine Hallett of Manchester University and leading authority on First World War nursing will be on board delivering lectures throughout the cruise. We intend to lay wreaths to those New Zealand nurses who perished at sea when the SS Marquette was sunk by torpedoes. On 3 September, 30 of us dressed in replica WWI dress will land at the site of the Third Australian General Hospital on the Greek island of Lemnos to commemorate the ‘bag-piped’ arrival of the ANZAC nursing sisters of 1915.

I will be squeezing myself into one of the replica nurses uniforms for this re-enactment (donated by the producers of the mini-series – the tag inside the collar tells me that I will be wearing Elsie Cook’s replica uniform!). The photograph here will give you an idea of the moment we are re-creating. We expect to have a reception on ‘Turks Head’ that will include an official welcome from the Mayor of Lemnos. From here, we make land in Turkey, and visit the main Allied landing sites – Suvla Bay, Anzac Cove and Cape Helles. The itinerary continues with our passage through the Dardenelles. On arrival at Istanbul, we’ll be visiting the Florence Nightingale Museum in the Selimiye Army Barracks.

The purpose of the cruise is to draw attention to the sick and injured of the Gallipoli campaign and those who cared for them – the real Anzac girls, on hospital ships, on Lemnos and at bases in Salonika and in Egypt. The nurses on Lemons worked in unprecedented circumstances. Posted there to deal with the wounded of the battles we now know as Lone Pine and Chanuk Bair, those actions were already underway when they arrived to find their hospital supplies were delayed. They were ‘making do’, ministering to the wounded on stretchers, kneeling on the stony ground and using their own cups to give the men fluids. Day and night, they could hear the guns booming continuously on the Peninsula. ‘I could weep hysterically now it is over’ wrote Sister McMillan of Sydney in her first letter home two weeks later. The sisters of the Australian Army Nursing Service with the Third Australian General Hospital lived and worked in tents on the shores of Mudros Harbour, Lemnos for five months in 1915.

Well, it doesn’t get much better than that. Watch this space for more posts and pics from this cruise in the coming weeks. I understand that Antonia Prebble, one of the actresses from the Anzac Girls mini series will be on the cruise so that will be a brush with fame. She played the Kiwi nurse Hilda Steel – a real Anzac girl, who trained as an anaesthetist (with some success it seems), so I’m sure there’ll be some good stories about that! Bye for now, Sally.

There are a few berths still available for the voyage. If you would like more information contact Wild Earth Travel

The cruise organisers are indebted to the producers of the TV drama ANZAC Girls for the replica uniforms; as well as the Greek Consul General in Sydney and the Lemnian Association of NSW for their support. Photo credit: SLNSW Ref No. PXE 698.

Excel with data and the real reason we should wear surgical masks: Lessons from recent Informa Conference

Ben Lockwood is an engaging presenter and self-avowed technology geek. I was fortunate to hear Ben speak at last month’s Informa Operating Theatre Management Conference in Sydney. It seems Ben’s made good use of technology – MS Excel in particular – in his project work implementing the National Standards at Flinders Medical Centre in South Australia. Ben recommended perioperative managers download the appropriate NSQHS Monitoring Tool from the NSQHS website and develop an audit schedule from this Gap Analysis that is achievable and meaningful. Ben finished by saying that “the data have to help you to improve!” If you’ve not yet heard Ben speak about the Nationals Standards, then you might like to check out his slides from the Informa Conference.

Elsie Truter from Rotorua, New Zealand gave a rather memorable presentation on infection control. Wonderful slides, including one of an ancient Peruvian skull showing signs of surgical trephining as well as evidence of healing – confirming that the patient didn’t die as a result of this rather dramatic surgery. In addition to the wonderful slides, Elsie provided some surprising statistics about new infections as well as developments in health and science. Did you know that the human genome has shown that we are 8% virus? Did you know that during the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale dropped the infection rate to 4%, but never accepted germ theory? I was rather startled to learn that in less than an hour a patient’s hospital room will be colonised and reflect the patient’s unique ‘microbiome’. Elsie made the point that patients’ visitors may also be a source of infection in hospital because their behaviour can be risky – she supported this view with a photo she’d taken of some visitors sitting on the gutter next to rubbish bins outside the hospital ED. However, the most memorable slide was the one Elsie used to strongly defend the use of surgical masks – it stops us from picking our nose. Worth a look? You bet!

You can view many other presentations from this recent conference, including an update on ACORN’s activities from ACORN President Ruth Melville, some great insights from Kathy Flanigan on Communication plus a fascinating presentation on the TPOT by Aaron Shergis as well as my presentation on “Delegation and Supervision: Implications for managers”. For those of you keen to read more, be sure to check out the Informa Healthcare blog.






A rainy night at Westmead

On Tuesday 19 August Sally and I ventured out on a cold rainy night to Westmead Hospital to take part in the Supper Meeting of the NMUMS NSW. Westmead had been my ‘home’ for over 20 years (on and off) – in fact it was my first Nurse Educator position and laid the foundation for my ongoing career in perioperative education. The hospital had only been open for two years when I arrived there in 1980 and even though I have been back there occasionally since leaving finally in 2005, this was the first time in several years. So I was a little nostalgic and also curious to see what changes had taken place. Couldn’t help having a sticky beak around a few corridors that were once so familiar!

Sally and I presented two papers – the first, which we co presented was on our experiences as expert reviewers and expert witness. Sally had been involved with reviewing two cases, one of which had appeared before the Professional Standards Committee and I had appeared as an Expert Witness in a Coronial Inquest. This presentation led to lots of discussion amongst the 20 attendees about supervision of ENs as both our experiences featured lack of supervision of ENs in different practice settings. We hope that the presentation has encouraged others to think of themselves as experts and to put their hand up to be an expert reviewer/witness. Certainly several of the attendees indicated that they had been involved in internal reviews or RCAs at their hospitals, so they are already acting in an expert capacity.

Sally then presented a paper on supervision and delegation and the implications for front-line managers. Sally took the audience through our professional regulatory framework, relevant definitions and with the use of actual case studies from the Health Care Complaints Commission, asked the audience to consider their own workplace and how they delegate, allocate and supervise the range of staff they manage. Again, the content prompted much discussion and we were rapidly running out of time towards the end of the evening.

The audience were very appreciative of our presentations and we ended the evening with a group photo which will appear on the website along with the presentations. We were both appreciative of the lovely wine and chocolates given as thank you gifts. So do take a look at the presentations on the Resources section.

Cheers   Menna