Help with the ultimate revival, bringing back the heart of nursing and midwifery  

21 October 2019

At our recent Annual Professional Conference, more than 420 nurses, midwives and personal care workers learned of the latest research outcomes and evidence from Australia and abroad…and they discovered that many of these presentations pointed to the same underlying conclusion:that we, as professions, need to recalibrate our focus before we lose the essence of nursing and midwifery… the humanity and breadth of care.

Austrian nurses Margaret Pissarek (left) and Marianne Stöger (right) dedicated 40 years of their lives to caring for people with Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) on the South Korean Island of Sorokdo.

Watch their story and support their nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize at

“Whole-of-person care is what distinguishes nurses and midwives from other health professionals,” ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said in her opening address to Conference attendees.

“Our role is not to focus on the condition, the cut or the impediment… we of course contribute to care and treatment of the presenting problem. But more importantly nurses and midwives assess and provide care to the person as they go
through the event that brought them into the health care system, be that in joyous or tragic circumstances.”

That may be help with the emotional roller coaster they are on, help with coming to grips with their own mortality or the demands of supporting a new life, educating them and their family in preparation for the return home and adjusting themselves to new limitations or conditions, managing new or changed medications and monitoring their impacts.

“Holistic care requires consideration of the whole person rather than how their case is classified, the primary diagnosis or the medical procedure they have undergone. It needs consideration of the physical needs for sure, technical and complex interventions too. But it also needs to consider the psychosocial, emotional and the spiritual needs of people as they deal with all this other care,” Ms Dabars says.

Shen then introduced guests to two nurses, whose story epitomises this philosophy.

“Marianne Stöger and Margaret Pissarek could not be at the conference in person, but their story needs to be heard. They went beyond the ordinary, beyond the expected, beyond the prescribed care for the illnesses their patients were enduring.”

Their story starts in 1962, when—fresh out of nursing school—they heed the call from the Korean island of Sorokdo to provide care to 6,000 patients with leprosy, as well as 200 children isolated on the island from their afflicted parents.

“At a time when there was no known cure and doctors at the local hospital wore masks, gloves and consulted with these patients from a distance, Marianne and Margaret cared as only nurses could.”

“They touched the patients’ curled up fingers and toes with their bare hands. They applied disinfectant to every part of their bodies without gloves. They socially connected with them…they invited them to dinner…they sat down with their families…they gave them love, hope and joy at a time when it was felt that all was lost.”

“For 40 years, these two nurses worked unpaid to care for patients on what was known as a ‘leper colony’, leaving only to raise funds back in Austria so they could continue to cover the cost of ongoing care on the island.”

The 12-minute video documenting the contribution of these two nurses to the island community can be viewed at where you can also support the nomination of Marianne and Margaret for a Nobel Peace prize.

“We encourage you to sign the petition to support the nomination of these terrific ambassadors for nursing as it should be. But, we do not just want you to just sign a petition.”

“We want you to adopt the ethos and take it back to your workplace. We want you to lobby your manager, your Executive, your Director of Nursing and even your Minister to create an environment that enables you as nurses and midwives to practice and provide whole-person care in our own workplaces.”

“Because if you are not empowered to shift your focus back to whole-of person care—instead of just treating the diagnosis—we will lose the very essence of our role as nurses and midwives. And the people in your care? Well, they stand to lose a lot more. Just ask anyone struggling to meet the needs of their residents in aged care.”