Dr Rosemary Bryant AO
About the speaker
Dr Bryant has had a long and distinguished career in nursing and healthcare. She initially undertook the General Nursing Certificate course at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane following completion of high school in 1967. This was followed by clinical experience as a Registered Nurse in the USA, UK and Australia. Dr Bryant completed a postgraduate Certificate in Intensive Care Nursing at the London Hospital, UK and she practised as a specialist intensive care nurse for a number of years. She went on to complete a Diploma in Nursing Administration (Lincoln Institute of Health Sciences), a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in History and Politics (University of Adelaide), and a Graduate Diploma of Health Administration (South Australian Institute of Technology).
Dr Bryant made a rapid transition to leadership roles and just six years following her initial registration as a nurse she was appointed to the role of Charge Nurse (Critical Care) at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Within ten years of graduating she was appointed to the role of Director of Nursing, Child Adolescent and Family Health Service, Department of Health, South Australia (1982-1984) and then Director of Nursing, Royal Adelaide Hospital. (1984-1990). Under her leadership many advances were achieved in the continuing professionalisation of nursing across nursing policy, practice and research in South Australia. She also played a significant role in the transfer of pre-registration nursing education from the hospital school setting to the higher education sector.
Dr Bryant’s extensive experience includes five years in the early 1990’s in the Victorian Department of Health and Community Services, firstly as Director, Nursing Policy and Planning and then as Assistant Director in the Acute Health Division, with responsibility for health policy formulation, advice and strategic planning as well as management of staff and a budget responsibility of $153 million. From 1995-2000 she expanded her expertise working as a Health Policy Consultant.
From 2000-2008 Dr Bryant held the position of Executive Director, Royal College of Nursing, Australia – the peak professional leadership organisation for nursing in the country. She was appointed to the position of the first Commonwealth Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer in July 2008. In the following four years Dr Bryant served as President of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) which represents nursing organisations from 134 countries and 13 million nurses around the world.
Dr Bryant has also served a term as Chair of the Florence Nightingale International Foundation, Geneva where she continues as a member of that foundation. In addition, Dr Bryant is a Member of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council and the South Pacific Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers Alliance.
In recognition of her outstanding leadership and distinguished service, Dr Bryant was awarded an Honorary Doctor of the University by Queensland University of Technology in 2010 and by Flinders University in 2012. In the Queen’s Birthday 2014 Honours List, Dr Bryant received an Officer of the Order of Australia award for distinguished service to the profession of nursing through national and international leadership, and as a supporter of access and equity in health care.
Dr Bryant is the author of many important health policy reports on nursing and midwifery. She has published on regulatory and legal matters in nursing, health workforce issues and challenges, and leadership.
She is a long standing and active member of the Advisory Board for the UTS WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Development. For over six years she has been a participant in, and contributor to, numerous Australian Government Australian Leadership Awards/UTS leadership development programs conducted through the Collaborating Centre. Dr Bryant has contributed to numerous other initiatives mounted by the UTS WHO Collaborating Centre with the South Pacific Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers Alliance.
It is a great honour for the University of Technology, Sydney to award Dr Rosemary Bryant AO an Honorary Doctor of Health Sciences (honoris causa) in recognition of her outstanding contributions as a leader in health care with significant achievement in health policy and program development and delivery in changing environments.
I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal and Guring-gai people of the Eora Nation, upon whose ancestral lands the University now stands, and pay my respects to the Elders both past and present. I would also like to extend this respect, acknowledgement and welcome to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may be attending the ceremony today.
I would also like to acknowledge:
- Chancellor, Professor Vicki Sara;
- Provost, Professor Peter Booth;
- Faculty of Health Dean, Professor John Daly;
- University Secretary and Director of Governance Support, Mr Bill Paterson;
- the Chair of Academic Board, Associate Professor Joanne Gray; and
- other staff, distinguished guests, graduates and their family and friends.
I am delighted to see so many of you graduating; it is a wonderful achievement of which you should be very proud. It is a pleasure to be here today providing the occasional address, and a great honour to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Health Sciences from the University. This, and your generous presence, illustrates how far, in our various professions, we have come.
In addressing you today, I am acutely aware of the irony in that I am nearing the end of my career while you are just beginning yours. I feel honoured to have spent my whole career in a profession which has provided me with so many opportunities and adventures as well as a deep connection to others.
But as a teenager I did not have a burning desire to become a nurse and to a degree I drifted into the profession along with several other friends from school. Nonetheless, very soon after I commenced as a student nurse at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, I felt instinctively that I had made the right choice.
The nursing course was interesting and stimulating, albeit frustrating, and I found clinical practice rewarding and fulfilling. However, it was compulsory to live in the nurses’ home and the attendant rules associated with living-in felt petty and constraining. As a result I came to know the Matron quite well as I was a frequent visitor to her office, either on account of my misadventures or my patient advocacy activities!
I trust all of you have been better behaved than I was!
But given the passage of time between the completion of my education, and your graduation here today, I want to focus on the profession’s changes that have been and gone and those that I hope are yet to come.
Indeed, when I finished my nursing education, the very thought of nurses and midwives completing their education in a tertiary setting, having the ability to practise in their profession at an advanced level, and taking the lead in the delivery of mainstream health care, was beyond the realm of possibility.
So what does the future have in store for us, in our chosen professions of nursing and midwifery, and pharmacy? In my address today, I want to challenge the stereotypical image of providing care solely in the acute care sector. Not only is our scope of practice far broader than that in the past, but so are our care settings.
The structure of our societies has been changing for some time. We are rapidly moving from a demographic structure that was once characterised as an “age pyramid” to one that is increasingly becoming dominated by the very elderly.
As such, the need for health professionals in primary health care is anticipated to steadily grow, and, in my opinion, will present to you, as the health care providers of the future, an unprecedented period of opportunity.
I am aware that we have pharmacy graduates in the audience today. I would like to acknowledge that while pharmacists are largely employed in the primary health care setting at present, their role is very much an evolving one as well. While my address today will primarily focus on the role of nurses and midwives, I hope that my remarks can be considered in a broader context also, in that the roles of all health professionals are evolving.
I say this because the structural changes in society, demographic shifts and illness patterns will increasingly involve the utilisation of health professionals working to the full extent of their scope of practice.
The growing burden of chronic disease will also require moves in Australia, as there have been around the world, toward a case management system, often with nurses and midwives in a coordinating, central role. This shift in type of care will translate naturally into more advanced primary health care roles for nurses and midwives.
The growth of out-of-hours clinics, self-care and prevention services, an increase in home-based care, changes to models of primary care provision such as super clinics and amalgamation of general practices, will call on health professionals to be innovative, forward thinking and creative in order to meet the needs of the population.
At the core of this must be an authentic focus on providing patient-centred care. Referring to midwifery in particular, women’s satisfaction in birthing choice must be of the highest priority, and I think there will be moves in the future towards greater flexibility and choice for pregnant women. At present, publicly funded homebirth services are offered as part of the public hospital system in most states and territories. I think we will continue to see expansion of these services, as well as those offered by privately practising midwives.
I would like to move on now, and emphasise that ongoing education is vital for all health professionals. One certainty is that, far from being at the end of your study, in many ways you are only just beginning. Knowledge is the pinnacle of excellence in patient care.
As the largest health profession, and one that is widely regarded as the most trusted, nursing and midwifery is unique in its ability to be flexible and to adapt to changing health needs. With the huge expansion in demand for primary health care, we, as a profession, shall be at the forefront leading these changes, always with the best interests of the patient as the top priority.
Because the overwhelming majority of nurses and midwives do their work, not because it’s glamorous or well paid or even always highly regarded. For the most part, nurses and midwives do what they do because they know it is right, and because they care.
We all share a love for the work of the profession and a strong belief that this work is among the most important there is. Nursing and midwifery is a wonderful profession, and to those graduating today who will choose to make it their livelihood, I salute you.
I assure you that the choice of being a health professional, and your career, will provide you with a deep satisfaction, as well as the honour of working with others at critical times in their lives.
My career in nursing has been a privilege and one which has given me the opportunity to continually improve and develop, both personally and professionally.
I have found being a health professional to be most enriching and rewarding, and it is my greatest hope that you shall too. You will quite literally have the world at your feet. There is no end to the versatility of these qualifications and no limit to the places they can take you.
To this end, I offer my warmest congratulations on your graduation this afternoon. May your careers, like your graduation today, flourish with pride, achievement and reward.