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The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) awarded Mater Refugee Health Clinic Nurse Unit Manager Meryl Jones Nurse of the Year at a conference earlier this month.
Meryl has worked in refugee health for more than five years at Mater and was nominated by her colleagues in the Mater Integrated Refugee Health Service and the multicultural team at Brisbane South Primary Health Network in recognition of her contribution to refugee health, health equity and primary care.
“I have always had an interest in working in this area and love my work,” Meryl said.
“We work out in the community at GP Practices with refugees who have newly arrived for health assessments and follow up care and we also work in the Mater Refugee Complex Care Clinic which has been set up for refugees with complex health issues and asylum seekers who don’t have access to Medicare,” Meryl said.
The APNA awards were presented as part of the APNA conference held in Adelaide at the beginning of April which Meryl was also attending as a speaker.
“I presented a couple of sessions at the conference which I was totally comfortable with, but as soon as the awards were announced it all became a bit overwhelming—delightful but overwhelming,” Meryl said.
“To receive the award was totally unexpected and a great honour. It provides recognition for the whole Refugee Health team who undertake such wonderful work.
“Our role is about guiding patients through the process of healthcare in Australia, being an advocate for them and ensuring they are able to access the care they need.
“We also provide education in terms of preventative healthcare strategies, we refer to other services so they can keep themselves well and we help them understand what to expect when they visit other healthcare providers such as dentists and optometrists.”
“As I visit our refugee ready GP clinics, it is lovely to still see some patients, five years on, speaking English and hearing that they’ve got jobs and are continuing to look after their health and that of their family.”
Director Mater Refugee Health Service Donata Sackey said Meryl’s role was highly complex involving extremely vulnerable patients and working with the ever challenging demands of general practices and settlement services.
“Meryl is flexible and resilient, able to successfully navigate this complicated space and balance a range of different responsibilities including direct patient care, management, human resources, advocacy, research and stakeholder engagement,” Donata said.
“She is seen as a leader in the highly specialised refugee health space, with a wealth of knowledge and willingness to share with others. She is humble and leads by example well.
“Meryl advocates strongly for the refugee community to ensure they receive the best level of care. Through her deep understanding of the issues Meryl is able to impact her peers and local community and is a passionate advocate for the health and wellbeing of all refugee background communities.
“She is a very deserving recipient of this award.”
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