THE devastation of the Asian earthquake and tsunami on Boxing Day might seem like a world away, but for some of Australia’s emergency nurses it is simply a matter of time before they see the damage and the suffering first hand.
Julie Finucane (pictured) is the executive director of the College of Emergency Nurses Australasia and is waiting to see just how many of her nurses are called on in coming weeks to help the hundreds of thousands of victims across southern Asia.
‘We’ve all been asked about whether we’d be available to go, and I know many people are available to go and willing to go and help if they can,’ she said.
Julie, along with many other emergency nurses, has no idea what the coming weeks will bring, but she has her faith to guide her.
‘When things have been a bit difficult in either my personal or professional life, it is my God, the power of prayer and those around me who care about me, who bring me through,’ she said.
It is that faith, interwoven with a strong thread of community service, which has guided Julie’s life.
Coming from a family of six children, she went to school at Mary Immaculate Primary and then Our Lady’s College at Annerley.
‘Dad came to Australia from County Clare [in Ireland] when he was eight, mum is from Warwick and we grew up in Brisbane,’ Julie said.
She said the family was brought up to believe a strong Catholic faith was a part of life.
Julie joined the public service after leaving school and then the police where she worked for about 18 months before entering nursing.
She said the convenience of the work originally attracted her to specialise in trauma nursing.
‘I started in emergency nursing in 1986. It was convenient for my study. I started it really because I could get night shifts and I needed to study and I ended up staying with it.’
She has also been a member of the defence forces for 24 years.
Julie joined the army reserve in 1980 as a nurse.
3’I went to Bougainville with the ADF [Australian Defence Force] in 2000 for three months and that was a really wonderful experience because I was able to be a nurse, be an officer in the defence force and see how wonderful the spiritualism of the Bougainville people was – and I probably learned so much from them.
‘They have absolutely nothing but they have everything because they are just so spiritual.
‘I look on the faces of the people in the Asian tsunami now and I can sometimes see that spirituality in their face.’
Julie said seeing the worst of life did not lessen her faith.
‘I don’t always believe that God made this happen, but I think that God will help us through what’s happened.’
Julie said there were already signs of such influence.
‘I walked past the TV and saw the wonderful service with all the different religions, and I thought that’s an incredible sight to see and maybe that’s some peace to all those people there together doing their praying to all their gods.’
Julie is in a position to know first hand both the logistics of sending Australian nurses to help and what they are likely to experience once they get there.
As well as her role with the College of Emergency Nurses, she is also Lieutenant Colonel, Deputy Head of Corp, in the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corp.
‘There are army nurses that I know who are over there now as part of the field hospital and I know navy nurses and RAAF personnel who are also already over there.’
She said because of the extent of the tragedy the co-ordination of the disaster was complex.
‘The task is just mammoth and I think it will be a long term effort that we will all be putting in, trying to help all those countries affected by this.’
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