Celebrating our women: Helen Codman from Nursing Education

Ahead of International Women’s Day (IWD) this Sunday, we’ll be sharing stories throughout the week about women within The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) community who inspire us and who have contributed to our rich history.

We spoke to Helen Codman, Deputy Director, Nursing Education and Manager, Allied Health and Nursing Education Outreach Program, about her RCH journey, how Nursing Education has changed over the years and what IWD means to her.

Tell us about your RCH journey – when you joined, the roles you’ve held here?

I joined the RCH as a registered nurse back in July 2005 shortly after emigrating from the UK. I’ve always had a keen interest in Nursing Education, and after becoming a clinical nurse specialist in 2006, I then went on to become a clinical nurse facilitator in 2007. In 2016, I moved into a new role managing the newly formed Allied Health and Nursing Education Outreach Program, which supports delivery of paediatric education to our regional and rural partners across the state, and is generously funded by the RCH Foundation. In early 2019, I was appointed Deputy Director of Nursing Education and am still involved part time with Outreach.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Helen Codman, Deputy Director, Nursing Education and Manager, Allied Health and Nursing Education Outreach Program

It’s about celebrating our achievements no matter how big or small they may be and supporting each other to realise them.

This year’s theme for IWD is #EachforEqual, what does that phrase mean to you?

To me #EachforEqual means that we all have a role to play in challenging inequality, promoting inclusivity and honouring those trail blazing women whose tireless efforts have given us a voice. It’s about equality across the board regardless of gender, race or religion and most importantly, the simple things like respect for and kindness to each other.

Which women are you inspired by?

The ones whose influence has helped me to be the person I am today. My mum, my daughter, my friends and last but not least, the myriad of incredible colleagues that I’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from for the last 33 years.

Oh, and Lillian Wyles!

What are some different ways you like to empower women in your everyday life?

I think first and foremost it’s leading by example – role modelling is such an important part of working in any team, and when it’s done well it has the power to really influence performance.

Promoting self-esteem and letting people know that their opinions are heard and valued, and encouraging and supporting professional development opportunities are also very important to me.

Finally by showing appreciation – we all lead such busy lives and with that, I do think it’s important sometimes to just stop and say thank you – it really can make a difference in someone’s day.

What is one of your greatest achievements?

Being part of the development and launch of the RCH Education Outreach Program. In the three and a half years since its inception, the program has grown exponentially and has provided paediatric Allied Health and Nursing Education and training to over 1500 clinicians throughout the state, who would otherwise have had very little access to this specialist knowledge. We now have a team of four educators who develop tailor made education programs based on an organisation’s identified learning needs. I’m extremely proud of all we have achieved – it’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve had the privilege to be involved in.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

With the development of the Education Hub, it’s an exciting time for inter-professional healthcare education here at the RCH, and beyond with our campus partners. In an ever changing clinical landscape, I am committed to supporting our very talented Nursing Education team to provide collaborative, contemporary, and innovative education and training that supports not only our RCH teams, but those beyond our walls.

What is your favourite RCH memory?

Being presented with the 2015 RCH Mary Patten Award for Nursing. Being peer nominated – it was both humbling and rewarding to be recognised with this prestigious award.

This year the RCH is celebrating 150 years of care, what do you think the RCH’s future looks like?

As one of the world’s great children’s hospitals, our work will never be done. Advances in technology, implementation of new and exciting care pathways, and a growing demand to care for children as close to home as possible, challenges us to continually seek ways to achieve what we have never done before. However, with the facilities, resources and opportunities at our disposal, we are incredibly fortunate to make a difference to the lives of so many children and their families. The future of the RCH is bright!

How has Nursing Education progressed over time, and how would you like to see it progress in the future? 

Nursing Education has made huge progress over the years, but I believe its core principles remain the same. It has always been about using innovative and engaging methods to teach and train our nurses to develop and maintain the highest possible levels of skills, knowledge and expertise. When I trained over 30 years ago, the main teaching methods were long classroom lectures and practical training in a small skills room! PowerPoint didn’t exist and our notes were hand written from acetate sheets projected onto a wall! Nowadays, we have a huge variety of multi-modal methods at our fingertips with webinars, simulation and team training opportunities to name a few. Our educators are passionate and committed and constantly seek new evidence to ensure that our patients and families receive the best care possible. I am confident that we continue to build a strong and effective nursing education framework as we move towards the future.

Trainee Nurses Studying, Circa 1947, Location: The Children’s Hospital; Carlton, Victoria, images courtesy of The Royal Children’s Hospital Archives.

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