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From Camp Counsellor to COVID Ward

By September 2, 2021 No Comments

One nurse’s story about why she thought volunteering for the COVID ward was “the right thing to do.”

Steph Tanna was 17 when she decided she wanted to be a nurse. Her high school, Pymble Ladies’ College had organised a camp for year 12 students to take care of children with severe disabilities. Each child had a dedicated counsellor, like Steph, who looked after their needs for four days. This camp was life-changing for Steph because until that moment, she had no idea what she wanted to do after she finished high school. The experience of caring for a child inspired Steph to go into healthcare to help people who needed her the most.

Steph’s mother, Judy Tanna recalls the moment Steph declared that she was going to be a nurse.

“After not seeing her for four days, I remember Steph jumping into the car and declaring, ‘I am going to be a nurse,’ and that has been her focus ever since.”

Fast forward to 2021 and Steph was the first nurse to volunteer for a new COVID ward at Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) which opened to care for nursing home patients. When Steph heard the call out for volunteers for the new ward, it only took a couple of seconds to realise that it was “the right thing to do”.

Steph is very proud of the work that her colleagues did on the COVID ward. After being effectively thrown together overnight, the ward brought together some of the greatest healthcare professionals from around the district. Steph was inspired by the creativity and resilience shown by all the nurses, some of whom volunteered and others who were “deployed” – thrown into the deep end but still committed to their patients.

The nursing staff on the new COVID ward became close but there were some things that Steph felt were unspoken.

“We didn’t always talk about it, but sometimes I know we were scared. We wondered if the PPE was working, but when the surveillance testing started, we felt a bit more relieved.”

Once Steph’s first three tests came back negative, she was confident that the protocols were working and she felt more confident going to work. She acknowledges that the ward was not without its challenges, particularly as it was navigating unchartered territory, but she was confident in her decision to volunteer for this important work.

The drive and determination that Steph shows every day is characteristic of many nurses within the Northern Sydney Local Health District and beyond. There are approximately 6,000 nurses working across the district who put other people first every day.  Steph says of her colleagues,

Steph Tanna at work on the COVID-19 ward

“I am surrounded by people who are selfless and compassionate. Our job is literally to put people’s needs before our own.”

Nurses work long shifts doing many of the small but important tasks. During COVID, nurses are the first line of defence and many, like Steph, even exceed the already arduous call of duty. Steph believes that one of the most important things to have within a team is trust and the understanding that everyone can learn from each other.

“I work with intelligent, compassionate people, constantly pushing me to be better – people like my colleagues, friends and my Mum.”

Steph’s mother Judy is on the Development Committee of the NORTH Foundation, lending her fundraising experience to the team and helping to guide the strategic direction of the organisation. While Judy feels pride for Steph’s achievements, Steph is also proud of what her mum is doing to help raise the profile of the NORTH Foundation.

“I am proud of the work my Mum and the NORTH Foundation are doing because it means that more philanthropic support will go towards medical research, equipment, and improving outcomes for patients like mine.”

The NORTH Foundation team believes that our nursing workforce is one of the district’s greatest strengths and the backbone of the healthcare system. With money raised from a community fundraising program, the NORTH Foundation recently said ‘thank you’ by gifting COVID care packages to staff at the COVID wards at RNSH. Steph’s colleagues were very grateful for the packages and said that gestures like that make a huge difference in helping them to feel appreciated.

When Steph decided to pursue a career in nursing, she knew it would be a rewarding choice.

“I wanted to be a nurse because I love helping people. I’m very blessed to be working with some of the greatest people – the nurses and doctors around me and the patients I care for really make this the most gratifying job in the world.”

Please click here if you’d like to make a donation to the RNSH COVID Support Fund.

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