40 years of care: The altruistic nurse honoured for unwavering devotion to healthcare

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As International Nurses Day (12 May) came to a close, the tears streaming down Angie Monk’s face spoke volumes about a day and a profession she holds close to her heart.

The veteran nurse had just received Australia’s highest honour in nursing – the Nurse of the Year Award at the HESTA Australian Nursing Awards.

It was a fitting scene for a woman truly deserving of the grand gesture.

For four decades Angie has dedicated her life to nursing and midwifery – two areas of the health sector she harbours a deep admiration for.

To some, nursing is a job. But to Angie, it’s a little more than that.

“It’s never been just a job – it’s always been a lifestyle,” she said.

“There’s not been a day I’ve regretted being a nurse. It’s been a fantastic life and I’m very, very proud.

“To be honoured by HESTA in this way, I’m just so overwhelmed. I’m just so proud to be in this room tonight with so many wonderful nurses who have done so much.”

In a field where actions speak louder than words, Angie has drawn the attention of many.

Long recognised as a pioneer in her field, the 40-year veteran has seen and done it all in a challenging and demanding profession.

Angie moved to Australia from England in 1980, settling in Perth where she worked at a number of different hospitals. In 1997 she took a role at Ramsay Health Care’s Joondalup Health Campus.

It was a very different nursing landscape back then, Angie recalled.

“Nursing has changed significantly over the years,” she said.

“When I first started out the money was poor and we lived in nursing homes, but the public was right behind us. [The public] knew how hard we worked and they’d recognise that by giving us a bottle of milk or a free ride on the bus.”

The veteran nurse has seen firsthand the changes Australia’s healthcare system has undergone.

Technology and money have led to significant advancements and while they have helped shape the robust system Australians rely heavily on today, Angie said nurses remain very much irreplaceable.

“It’s been incredible to see some amazing changes in nursing and technology over the past 40 years,” she said.

“Everything’s changing with evidence-based practice and we’re learning more and more. But the bedside nurse is always there, the empathetic nurse, the one that will hold someone’s hand and fix their pillows.

“We’ve never lost that no matter how educated we’ve become, how many degrees we’ve got. Nurses always put their patients first and that empathy is the most important thing.”

Angie is the Blood Management Consultant at Joondalup Health Campus.

In her role she has developed a leading blood management program for patients undergoing major surgical procedures involving significant blood loss.

Angie received the nation’s highest nursing honour for the program, the judges recognising her exceptional advocacy and leadership in developing the innovative system that has improved outcomes and recovery for patients.

“I’ve been able to see things like how the transfusion rate for hips and knees dropped from 15 per cent to three per cent,” she said.

“That drop means all those patients have much better outcomes. We are making a difference and I see it in patients having a shorter length of stay in hospital and a reduction in the number of patients getting infections. Patients are less at risk of the adverse outcomes sometimes associated with blood.”

Despite claiming the most coveted nursing award in the country, Angie said she wouldn’t hesitate to start over in a profession she has found so rewarding and fructiferous.

“I wish I was starting out now as a nurse,” she said.

“There have been a lot of changes, but it’s a fabulous career. You can take any pathway you like, whether it be education, bedside nursing or specialist nursing. You can work anywhere in the world with your qualification.

“There’s happy stories and there’s sad stories. I’ve been there at births and I’ve been there at deaths. I’ve said to the young nurses to always remember that they can make a difference to the patients and their families.”

Forty years is a long time in a profession, but Angie wouldn’t have it any other way.

She plans to continue practising for years to come and, unsurprisingly, will use her prize money to improve her skillset.

The veteran nurse will travel to the United States later this year to meet with the pioneers of patient blood management at the Society for the Advancement of Patient Blood Management.

Angie’s desire to improve the lives of others is never sated.

“I find it an honour to look after patients and I strive to do my best to improve their health and their outcomes,” she said.

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