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Sinéad O’Flaherty’s light-bulb wellness moment

Sinéad O’Flaherty’s light-bulb wellness moment

Sinéad O’Flaherty. Photo: Sophie Connor

A few years ago, Sinéad O’Flaherty was sitting on her couch at home when she had a moment of inspiration: a simple – and hopefully effective – tool that she believed could help to support her nursing and midwifery colleagues. She picked up a notebook and started sketching. This month, the results of those initial sketches go state-wide.

Sinéad is a paediatric intensive care nurse at The Royal Children’s Hospital. Trained in her native Dublin, she was drawn to nursing because of the caring aspect of the career, and her desire to help others. ‘And when I was training, it just felt right.’

Had she done her training over the past few years, however, it might have been a different story. ‘I was burning out,’ she says. ‘I needed some support.’

Through a friend, she learned about the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV) and got the support she needed. Sometime later, while sitting on her couch at home, she reflected on why she hadn’t initially known about the service.

Accessibility of information

The Royal Children’s Hospital PICU has its own psychology service to support staff, patients and families. It’s an invaluable service, and Sinéad reasoned that having their contact details easily available, at any time, could help – especially when people were stressed or in distress.

That’s when an idea popped into her head: ‘I thought it would be really handy to have a list of these services on something that we can access easily, that’s generally kept on us most of the time, and also something that ends up coming home with us.’

A small card that could be kept with the staff ID seemed like the obvious choice. She started sketching ideas then and there – drawing on a piece of paper, then scribbling it out and starting again, over and over. ‘I don’t know how many times I did that,’ she says with a laugh.

With a little help from her photographer husband, Sinéad eventually made her own prototype to take to the PICU psychologist, and the nurse unit manager. ‘Just to see what they thought’.

A dream becomes reality

Both were very supportive, but at that point Sinéad’s idea still seemed like a fantasy. Even with managerial support, she had no idea how she would get such a card to all her colleagues, nor even if it were possible. Happily, both the NMHPV and the hospital’s Workplace Health and Safety department heard about the idea and were very enthusiastic and supportive. ‘They got really excited about the idea of taking it hospital-wide, and then it just took off quicker than I could have imagined,’ Sinéad says.

With funding from the Victorian Government Department of Health’s $32 million package for health services to support wellbeing projects for their workforces during the height of the pandemic, and after many revisions with experts – in mental health, communications, publishing and more – the finished cards were distributed to
all RCH staff.

They were embraced really well, and Sinéad has since received feedback from colleagues who have said they used them, for themselves or for a friend; that the card flagged services they weren’t aware of; that it helped. The whole experience was all quite surreal, she says: ‘This was something I dreamt of, but that it was actually happening, that was almost unbelievable. It just kind of snowballed and rolled off ahead of me. I may have shed a happy tear!’

From PICU to RCH to ANMF

Imagine, then, how Sinéad felt when ANMF (Vic Branch) heard about her project, and approached her to take it state-wide! She’s thrilled by the idea that an initiative originally conceived to help her immediate colleagues might now be able to provide a simple support mechanism for other nurses and midwives – especially graduates or students making the transition to practice, ensuring they know from the start of their careers where they can get help, if needed.

It was Glenn Taylor, the CEO of NMHPV, who suggested that ANMF (Vic Branch) could help with reaching students, while also supporting nurses and midwives at any stage of their career, in any part of the state.

Sinéad has since been working with ANMF and NMHPV to produce a card that can be trialled by nurses and midwives across Victoria. That card will be launched at the Branch’s 2023 Nurses and Midwives Wellness Conference on 28 April. Sinéad is excited, if a little overwhelmed. ‘I still see myself just sitting on that couch, drawing on a piece of paper in a notepad.’

The Wellness Conference is on Friday 28 April at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. It follows the Health & Environmental Sustainability Conference on Thursday 27 April. Members can register for both days, or just one of their choice. Each day counts for seven hours of CPD.

Register at

Early bird prices are available until Friday 7 April.

NMHPV is a free, independent and confidential counselling and support service for nurses, midwives, and nursing and midwifery students. It is designed by nurses, led by nurses and delivered by nurses and midwives.