BENDIGO midwife Sarah Watts has been announced as a HESTA Nursing and Midwifery awards finalist for providing birthing support, and improving the safety and sustainability of maternity services across the region.
The awards recognise the critical work undertaken by Australian nurses and midwifes during the pandemic to improve health outcomes.
"Being a finalist in the HESTA Midwife of the Year is extremely humbling and an honour," Ms Watts said.
"This nomination and becoming a finalist means the work I do is truly acknowledged and valued by my peers.
"The work we do to make a difference in the pregnant, birthing or post natal persons experience is what really counts."
The esteemed nurses began her career as a care assistant in a nursing home before launching into nursing.
During her general nurse training Ms Watts became interested in becoming a midwife - no doubt helped by her course spending a lot of time in the maternity unit, on the gynaecology ward, and with community nurses and midwives caring for women and families.
"Having a baby is a special time in a family's life and being a part of it gives me joy and happiness," she said.
"I want others to feel what I did when I was having my own children - you never forget the good and bad in the care you receive and I want parents to experience the good."
The dedicated midwife currently works across the Loddon Mallee region - a large and diverse area, where pregnant people often move travel far from their homes and support networks to seek medical care.
Most recently, Ms Watts has been part of developing the Loddon Mallee region pregnancy journey map - a visual aid which ensures people moving between hospitals have consistent pregnancy information.
She also established a special care nursery, helping ensure babies are not separated from their parents at birth if they need additional monitoring and observation which cannot be delivered on the postnatal ward.
"Having the ability to offer a special care nursery care within regional Victoria is important in keeping families together while still receiving the specialist care they need," Ms Watts said.
She is being recognised for her collaborative work with clinicians in the region and supporting them to implement the safest and most patient-centered care, which is reflected in the pregnant person's experience.
Only by working together across the region can we offer safe maternity care- Sarah Watts
The acclaimed midwife said if she won the award she would love to attend the Australian College of Midwives national conference, which is being held in Cairns this year.
"After not being able to gather with my fellow midwives I feel this time together will be even more important," Ms Watts said.
"We learn lots from each other's experiences."
She said a small group of midwives, including herself, hope to be chosen to present on Midwifery Group Practice, what Ms Watts believes to be the solution to sustainable rural maternity services in Victoria.
"Australia owes a great debt to our nurses and midwives," HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said.
"Congratulations and thank you to every single nominee and finalist for their leadership and dedication - we are so proud of the incredible contribution you make and we feel very privileged to have this opportunity to help shine a spotlight on your achievements."
ME bank, who have previously supported the awards, donated $30,000 in prize money to be split equally between the winners for professional development or to improve workplace services and processes.
ME chief executive Martine Jager said the bank was happy to continue recognising the incredible efforts and achievements of these midwifes and nurses in the healthcare sector.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the healthcare system simply couldn't function without nurses, midwives and personal care workers and those who train them," Ms Jager said.
Winners will be announced on May 19, 2022 at an awards ceremony in Melbourne.
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