Nursing scholarship supports closing the gap in immunisation

Sonja Elia is Victoria’s first Nurse Practitioner in the field of Immunisation. This year she’s travelling internationally and undertaking training, so she can make our Immunisation Clinic a more culturally appropriate service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

Each year the $50,000 Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship supports an outstanding RCH nurse to further develop their skills and experience by exploring innovative practices and models of care across Australia and internationally.

This year’s recipient is Nurse Practitioner, Immunisation, Sonja Elia.

Since joining the RCH in 1997, Sonja has gone from strength to strength.

After choosing to specialise in immunisation in 2003, Sonja became an integral part of the RCH Immunisation Clinic, and in 2017 she became Victoria’s first Nurse Practitioner in the field of Immunisation.

With support from the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Nursing Development Scholarship, Sonja is dedicating her expertise to supporting some of Australia’s most at risks communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The delivery of successful immunisation programs within Indigenous communities depends on culturally appropriate health services, and Sonja hopes to close the gap and make lasting changes to improve Indigenous immunisation for the long term.

“This scholarship enables me to travel to different communities and present data at international conferences on current immunisation rates for Indigenous children at the RCH, as well as learn about colleagues’ strategies to improve in this area,” she said.

“Protecting all children from vaccine preventable disease like measles and whooping cough is important, and particularly significant for vulnerable patients, so it really is a privilege to have this opportunity to make a difference.

“I’m incredibly passionate about immunisation as well as the advancement of my skills, and I feel extremely lucky that this scholarship is giving me the opportunity to improve both”

This month, Sonja commences training through the Centre for Cultural Competence Australia, the only provider of online, competency-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural training in Australia.

“The course will provide me with a deeper knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture – more specifically, it will provide me with an understanding of their language, traditions and history,” Sonja said.

“This will assist me in building a more culturally responsive environment within the RCH Immunisation Centre and enable me to develop resources that will, hopefully, resonate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who access this service.”

Following this, Sonja will visit health services in Darwin and Townsville, as well as travelling to Canada to present at an international conference.

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