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Whatever uniform she is wearing, Sharon Nihill says empathy and compassion are paramount.

“As my father would say, the day you can’t cry for your patients, is the day you give up your job.”

For Sharon, her ultimate career has been four decades in the making. She started as a ward trained nurse before transferring her skills into another role as a Navy Reservist.

Sharon commenced nursing in 1981, working at Queanbeyan District Hospital for 25 years before transitioning to the emergency department. She currently works at Batemans Bay Hospital on the far South Coast, NSW.

“I prefer working in smaller hospitals and I really like the uncertainty of emergency, you don’t have a routine as the work is just what comes through the doors.”

She started as a ward nurse “on the floor washing bed pans” where she learnt the value of individual care and personal resilience.

“The advance in technology is a good thing but you always need to remember you’re dealing with real people.

“I’m very grateful for the skills and attributes acquired from my ward training. Books are important for learning but the vocational training is paramount.”

After a brief stint as an ambo, she returned to nursing and joined the Navy Reserves.

Sharon says the desire to serve was a life-long calling. Her former husband was a police officer and a sailor in the Navy. Her brother was also police officer. After the 2002 Bali bombing he was deployed as disaster victim ID coordinator.

“I wanted to serve and be a person helping in disasters and times of great need.”

In 2009 she joined the Navy Reserves as a Nursing Officer, and currently serves at the rank of Lieutenant (LEUT).

Following basic training, Sharon participated in several operations and exercises such as Pacific Partnership 2012 – a multi-national humanitarian aid operation on the USNS Mercy, a US Navy hospital ship.  She joined the ship in the Philippines, and travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia where the medical teams provided surgical care for illness and injuries. There were also on-shore local clinics delivering primary health care and other forms of medical support for people who had no other access those services.

Sharon was part of the medical corps providing contingency medical care in 2019 for Operation Render Safe – the disposal of unexploded WWII ordnance in the Solomon Islands.

This year, her planned participation in a national exercise off the coast of Queensland has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her plans for Anzac Day also changed, given the nation-wide cancellation of services this year.

“It’s a day I’m always reminded of what Australian Defence Force members have done in the past but, also of my friends and colleagues currently serving overseas.

“I always celebrate the amazing connection and camaraderie I have with colleagues across the world.”

Sharon also acknowledges the support of her managers and colleagues to pursue her dual nursing roles.

“I wouldn’t able to give service to the Navy if it wasn't for the support of the team at the Bay Hospital.

“Their support is an important aspect of my service.”

SouthernNSWLocal Health District is celebrating the diverse skills, knowledge, passion and dedication of our healthcare professionals for International Nurses Day 2020, Tuesday 12 May. There are more than 2000 nurses across our region with a wide range of experience and skills, who play a very vital role in keeping our community safe, healthy and supported.