Western cares: hundreds of nursing and midwifery students delivering COVID-19 vaccinations

When the communities of Greater Western Sydney receive their all-important COVID-19 jab, there’s a strong chance they will be vaccinated by a proud contingent from Western Sydney University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery.

An army of more than 600 nursing students have been deployed to help deliver much-needed vaccinations at the hubs and centres across the region being run by the Western Sydney Local Health District, South Western Sydney Local Health District, and Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District.

In addition, there are also staff from the School working across hospitals and intensive care units (ICU), helping deliver much-needed care to patients.

Dean of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Professor Deborah Hatcher, said the School is pleased to be able to lend a hand to the vaccine rollout and assisting its nursing colleagues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are incredibly proud that we have hundreds of students and staff from the University helping out across our Local Health Districts, playing such an important role to protect the health and wellbeing of our communities,” said Professor Hatcher.

“One of our greatest strengths is our students and staff, who understand and are connected with the people of Greater Western Sydney, as many are part of these communities themselves.

“We are one of the largest nursing schools in the country, so we are pleased to be able to make such a valuable contribution to increasing vaccination rates in NSW, keeping our communities safe, and supporting the campaign to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor, Health and Medicine at Western Sydney University, Distinguished Professor Annemarie Hennessy AM, said Western Sydney University cares for and supports its communities.

“The importance of vaccination and the role it plays in keeping our community safe and returning to a lifestyle with less restrictions is absolutely clear. Both the NSW and Australian governments’ strategies out of the current stay-at-home orders depend on increasing vaccination levels across our community,” said Professor Hennessy.

“Western Sydney University cares about the health and wellbeing of our staff, students and the broader population. We also have a very large number of young people amongst the University community, and more than anything we want them to keep them safe and well, particularly given the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant.

“We encourage everyone across Greater Western Sydney who is eliglble to get vaccinated, to keep themselves, their families and the broader community safe. Remember, the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you right now, and if you have any questions or need advice, to make sure you talk with your doctor or health professional, to help you make an informed decision.”

The University supports our communities to find out more about the vaccination sites closest to them by visiting the NSW Government’s Get Your COVID-19 vaccination webpage (opens in a new window).

Additional helpful resources can also be found below:

Western Sydney University is proud of the many staff and students from its School of Nursing and Midwifery who are contributing their expertise and dedication to support the COVID-19 response effort. Read some of their stories below.

Student and staff profiles

Dr Lisa Wong

A passion to help those in need has driven Dr Lisa Wong, from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University, in her work at the COVID-19 Virtual Care Centre.

Lisa is a lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, teaching across both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Lisa is also an Academic Course Advisor for the Master of Nursing (Professional Studies). In addition to her position at Western, Lisa has been assisting the team at the Virtual Care Centre at Royal North Shore Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. The centre brings together a team of dedicated nurses and doctors who are committed to assisting the community through the COVID crisis.

With tri-lingual skills in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, Lisa has been helping nursing colleagues monitor COVID-19 patients who call the COVID-19 Virtual Care Centre. She is also helping doctors assess patients' symptoms on admission and discharge.

When asked why she chose to lend a hand with the COVID-19 health response, her answer was simple.

“It is a call from my heart, as a nurse for more than 35 years. The passion to help those in need keeps me going,” said Lisa.

The call to offer support and care is not of new importance to Lisa, saving lives has always been her driving motivation. From being a first aider at 15, to a lifeguard at 18 and eventually a nurse at 21, it has been her passion from a young age.

Lisa obtained her Master’s in Care of Elderly people, as well as her PhD in Nursing, alongside this, she is a qualified teacher for nurses and a qualified teacher with the Department of Education.

At the Virtual Care Centre calls range from people who have had their COVID-19 test and are enquiring about their results, to people who’ve tested positive to the virus and are after advice on managing their symptoms. Lisa emphasised that often it can also be members of the community seeking supportive counselling over the phone.

“I vividly recall after an elderly lady called the COVID Hotline asking for her swab results. She then began to cry non-stop for all her losses in life,” said Lisa.

Lisa believes it’s natural for people to start to feel helpless, especially after living in a pandemic for so long. She wishes to remind people that we all can make contributions to the health response.

“All the COVID-19 rules and restrictions can help to stop the spread of COVID-19. Following these rules and restrictions can reduce the number of COVID-19 positive people who are suffering and struggling. This is the best support members of the public can offer to those struggling,” said Lisa.

“Please have your jab, not only for you but for your loved ones, the whole community, the whole country and the whole world.”

Tara Booker

Tara Booker, a nursing student from the Sutherland Shire, knows first-hand about the importance of vaccinating Year 12 students, after her sister recently visited the family's local GP to receive her vaccination ahead of the HSC trials.

“It would certainly be a difficult time for year 12 students, and watching my sister navigate studying for her upcoming HSC trial exams from home as given me insight into the very real and unique situation many students across the state are currently facing, especially as many students across the state will sit their exams online,” said Tara.

“Applying to support the student vaccinator workforce is an opportunity for me to give back to the community and is a once in a lifetime experience. We are living in a crazy time and I see the opportunity as a vital way to learn a unique set of skills and to gain experience as a student nurse in a frontline work environment.”

In her second year of the Bachelor of Nursing at Western Sydney University, Tara works at St George Hospital and President Private Hospital as an Assistant in Nursing and recently received her own COVID-19 vaccination.

“It’s been a difficult time – but providing nursing care is so important and I love being able to provide essential and practical care to those who really need it. It’s been a huge weight off my shoulders getting vaccinated, but I’m still extremely careful in my work to protect my patients, my family and myself,” she said.

Tara explained that while she has always been passionate about caring for others, it wasn’t until her father injured his leg, that she had a ‘light bulb’ moment and decided to study Nursing after completing a Communications degree.

“It was when my dad hurt his leg one day and suddenly, I was the one there patching him up,” said Tara.

“He looked at me and said ‘Tara, you’re really good at this’ and that’s when I knew that a career in nursing was for me.”

Dr Leanne Hunt

Dr Leanne Hunt is one of the frontline nurses from Western Sydney University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery working tirelessly in ICU to combat COVID-19.

“Despite the significant challenges the health system is facing, we all do a remarkable job to provide the best possible care we can.”

Dr Hunt said vaccination is the best way people can protect themselves, their loved ones and help nursing and medical staff responding to the pandemic.

“Vaccinations are about thinking beyond the “I” to “we” – it’s about doing your part to ensure we as a society are collectively protected.”

Working alongside medical, nursing, paramedicine and other allied health students from the University who are part of response efforts, Dr Hunt said she is immensely proud of their contributions.

“At present, our students are participating in a once in a life-time event, the biggest public health initiative they will ever see. Their role in this cannot be underestimated, our students are doing a fantastic job and without them, the vaccination hubs would not be functional.”

Lekshmi Kumar

Giving birth during a pandemic and watching both parents suffer from COVID-19, didn’t stop final year nursing student at Western Sydney University, Lekshmi Kumar, from working at the South West Sydney Local Health District vaccination hub in Fairfield.

“After watching my family suffer from the disease in India, and giving birth to my daughter, I was very frightened of the infection. But that’s exactly why I knew I had to help. Knowing the suffering and death happening around the world, I really wanted to help and saw it as my duty as a nurse,” she said.

“Sometimes, I even forget to go for my break and continually assist my patients. Nursing is my passion and I really enjoy assisting people and helping them achieve good health.”

Lekshmi Kumar’s journey to becoming a nurse hasn’t been straightforward. After migrating to Australia from India in 2018, she started working as a cleaner and laundress at a nursing home.  It was there she witnessed the health difficulties suffered by some residents due to their old age and various health issues. She also witnessed a lot of residents going through palliative care treatment.

“Nurses were wonderful and their passion of delivering holistic care to their residents and supporting their families during that difficult time of life made me to think about studying nursing,” she said.

After completing a few bridging certificate, Lekshmi successfully sat the IETS exam and enrolled at Western Sydney University in 2019.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my study at Western Sydney University, so much so that I’ve encouraged my husband to do the course! He is currently in second year and also enjoying it.

“When I look back at my journey, I think of what my father-in-law told me ‘nothing is impossible if you really want it and are ready to work hard for it’. I’m now thinking of further training in anaesthesia, but in the meantime, I look forward to graduating and becoming part of the NSW Health team where I can continue to serve the country which I now call home.”