15 May 2023

Humble heroes: Canberra Hospital nurse and midwife take top gongs at excellence awards

| Travis Radford
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Nicola Ruthenberg and Prazoly Paul.

Award-winning ICU nurse Prazoly Paul (left) and midwife Nicola Ruthenberg have nearly 30 years of combined experience. Photo: Travis Radford.

Canberra Hospital has swept the floor at the 2023 ACT Nurses and Midwives Excellence Awards, with ICU nurse Prazoly Paul and midwife Nicola Ruthenberg taking home the top honours.

The annual awards ceremony in May for both public and private healthcare staff in the Canberra region coincides with the international days of the midwife (5 May) and the nurse (12 May).

ACT Nurse of the Year Ms Paul has been with Canberra Hospital for the past 18 years and in her current role as intensive care unit clinical care coordinator for the past five years.

She was acknowledged for her exemplary leadership skills, including during COVID, where she was instrumental in developing new processes for her unit and staff.

“I never thought about going back to anywhere. I’m so happy to be here and this is my second family. I always tell people that,” Ms Paul said.

“In a shift, we have 20 to 30 nursing staff, 15 to 20 doctors, cleaners, clerical support staff, social workers and pharmacists.

“I look after everybody and we work as a team.”

Nurse of the Year 2023 – Prazoly Paul, Intensive Care Unit, Canberra Health Services.

Long-serving ICU nurse Prazoly Paul (centre) said she was proud to take home the ACT Nurse of the Year award. Photo: Supplied.

Ms Paul was also acknowledged for going above and beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of running the ICU by making her staff feel supported.

“To get a positive culture, always think about food. Food is the main thing. So what I do, I cook a lot and bring it to my staff,” she said.

She said it was also important for her to notice when people in her team weren’t feeling happy and to check in with them.

“I message them and ask, ‘Are you OK?’ And I follow up the next day, ‘Are you OK?” she said.

“They feel like somebody is there for them and … they still feel valued.”

She paid tribute to her husband and three children, who she said brought her the happiness that she then had to bring to her staff.

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Midwife of the Year 2023 - Nicola Ruthenberg, Birthing and Maternity Assessment Unit, Canberra Health Services.

Midwife of the Year Nicola Ruthenberg (centre) has been a midwife since 2019 and said she loved the job. Photo: Supplied.

ACT Midwife of the Year Nicola Ruthenberg also works as a clinical care coordinator at Canberra Hospital, for the birthing and maternity assessment unit.

Unlike Ms Paul, Ms Ruthenberg has only been a midwife for the past four years and in the leadership role since December (2022), but said she loved the job and her team.

“I feel like the whole team work really well together, making sure to always deliver the safest and best outcomes for the women and families we care for,” she said.

“Getting to experience women becoming mothers and seeing people become families, it’s just incredibly rewarding to be a part of that experience.

“I’m very honoured and proud to have won [the award] and to be able to represent the maternity team here at Canberra Hospital.”

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Ms Ruthenberg was recognised for her kindness and empathy by regularly lending her judgement-free counsel to colleagues.

She said the most important parts of her leadership role were being approachable, respectful to everyone and simply “someone that’s always there”.

“There’s lots of different midwives and I think all of those different personalities work really well as a team and they all complement each other,” she said.

“[My role is] being able to support them and be that person that’s there for them when they need someone to talk to [or] they need help doing a task.”

To see the full list of award recipients, visit the ACT Government website.

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