When Tamworth nurse Mary-Anne Dieckmann started her nursing degree, she was determined to build a career in palliative care. An undoubtedly challenging sector of health, she’s faced with mortality and grief regularly. It takes a special person to step-up to the realities of palliation. She says it keeps her humble. Work worthy of celebration itself. However, we met Mary-Anne after she won an for her work on a stroke prevention program for the Gomeroi community.
Mary-Anne Dieckmann, a registered nurse in the Nioka palliative care ward, was named the local health district’s emerging leader at the Hunter New England Health (HNEH) excellence awards.
While technical services manager Stewart Symons took home the staff member of the year award, which is no mean feat in an organisation with more than 17,000 staff.
“I thought that I’d be applauding for someone else and it felt really surreal to get the award,” Mrs Dieckmann told The Leader, backing up from a night shift.
She was recognised for her contributions compiling a booklet on stroke aimed at the Gomeroi community.
The booklet, itself, also won the rural innovation award on the night, adding to the region’s bevy of recognition.
“I think it keeps me humble and I think that it keeps me focused on what's really important.”Award-winning nurse Mary-Anne Dieckmann
“Written for the mob by the mob” the booklet delivers information in an understandable way, which Mrs Dieckmann illustrated with an analogy by a man from Toomelah.
“He actually came up with the stuff about what an ischaemic stroke is,” she said.
“We told him the story and then he told us ‘so it’s like the river and when the river gets jammed up with silt’.
“Then it’s blocked and it’s like the arteries in the brain becoming blocked.
“And also talking about floods and how the water will wash over the land and squash everything down and damage it, so it’s like the brain being damaged from a haemorrhage.
“We forget sometimes as health professionals that we have that knowledge, but don’t necessarily know how to put it in a way that other people understand.
Mrs Dieckmann is now committed to making a difference in palliative care.
While it can be a very challenging sector of health, Mrs Dieckmann said it was a goal back when she started her nursing degree.
“It is such an intimate time that you’re sharing with them or managing their symptoms or taking care of somebody’s loved for the end of their life and things like that,” she said.
“I think it keeps me humble and I think that it keeps me focused on what's really important.”
No doubt there are plenty of sad moments, but there are also brief moments that make it rewarding.
“If I can make them smile for five seconds, or if I can make a family member understand what’s happening and be more prepared for what’s coming, then I feel like I’ve done a little bit better for them,” she said.
The nurse is now studying a masters in palliative care, on top of work commitments and raising four children.
Born in Newcastle, Mrs Dieckmann was a Coledale resident from the age of nine and wants to help improve palliative care in the region.
“We’ve got a great unit but there’s always room for improvement,” she said.
”This is where I feel like my roots are so I’ll probably stay here.”