Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer interview on ABC News Breakfast on 12 May

Read the transcript of Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Alison McMillan’s interview on 12 May 2020 with Michael Rowland about International Nurses' Day and COVID-19.

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MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now, we've been talking a lot about nurses this morning. It is International Nurses' Day, and amid the coronavirus, there's even greater respect than before for the work they're doing, the fabulous work they're all doing. So, let's bring in Australia's Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan. Alison, good morning to you, and happy International Nurses' Day.

ALISON MCMILLAN: Good morning to you too, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: How big a day is this for nurses? They are- most of the nurses I've known have been certainly hardworking, but pretty humble. They don't really like to bask in their own glory, do they?

ALISON MCMILLAN: No, Michael, that's right. And in normal circumstances, if it wasn't for coronavirus, we would probably be seeing lots of morning teas and celebrations. As you know, today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, so this year was to be our big celebration. We'll have to do it a different way, but we'll still do it and we'll be congratulating each other and looking after each other today and every day, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Indeed. So, take us through this pandemic and the great work nurses are doing. They are clearly among our most important front-line workers in dealing with the virus, aren't they?

ALISON MCMILLAN: They are. And I think it's important to remember that they're doing that across all sorts of different places. If you think of some of the challenges we've seen in residential aged care in recent weeks, and those workers out there who are trying really hard to protect our most vulnerable, learning new skills, having to adapt to new situations. So, I give a particular shout-out today to everyone working in residential aged care and acknowledge the challenges they're facing. And they have my utmost administration.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: What do you like about your profession, Alison? What drew you to nursing in the first place?

ALISON MCMILLAN: I think it provides- it's very rewarding. It's a privilege to be a nurse. You get to be at the best and worst times of people's lives. It's a great career for anyone to take up, because there's so much flexibility and so much opportunity provided. So, you can do so many different things, but the reward is that you can help people in a very positive way.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. You're also the Chief Midwifery Officer. How have women giving birth- about to give birth, how have their lives changed as a result of this pandemic? And I guess what broader advice have you got for them?

ALISON MCMILLAN: Yeah, their lives have changed. And we've seen increasingly some of the things, such as antenatal clinics being done online. But I think the most important message I've got for all pregnant ladies out there is that our hospital system is safe, and they should be staying on track with all of their appointments. There may be some slight variations in how many people can be with them at the birth, but we really do encourage them to follow on with all of those appointments, and our hospital system is really safe. It's a world-class system.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Nurses are doing great work. But sadly, as with supermarket workers, they haven't been immune from copping abuse from people they're dealing with, trying to help, as a result of the pandemic. Have abuse cases been fairly high when you look at hospitals around the country, Alison?

ALISON MCMILLAN: Unfortunately, Michael, it's something that we see in society every day. But there has been a reported increase that we've heard of, particularly at the moment with COVID-19. We do, unfortunately, have to deal with people at their most vulnerable, and we just ask and say that violence, whether it's physical or verbal, is never acceptable in any circumstance. And we should respect all of our healthcare workers, especially our nurses, today and every day, please.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Alison McMillan, again, happy Nurses' Day. Thanks so much for joining us on News Breakfast.

ALISON MCMILLAN: Thank you very much.


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