Two former nurses who started their careers at Wollongong Hospital, travelled the world and are now senior academics together, have received a prestigious nursing award.
University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Professor Patricia Davidson and Professor John Daly were among six recipients of the Nell J Watts Lifetime Achievement in Nursing Award, handed out by the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, commonly known as Sigma.
Sigma is an international honour society founded in 1922 by six nurses at the Indiana University Training School for Nurses.
It is one of the largest and most prestigious nursing organisations globally, aiming to advance world health and celebrate nursing excellence in scholarship, leadership and service.
The Nell J Watts Award is for active Sigma members who have demonstrated exemplary achievements in nursing throughout their lifetime.
The accolade acknowledges the pair’s significant contributions to the profession of nursing and is the third high-profile award they have received together.
They met on their first day of nursing school at Wollongong Hospital in January 1977 and their careers have intersected at various points since then.
According to an article in UOW’s The Stand, Prof Daly, who had emigrated from Ireland in the late-60s, held a particular affinity for nursing after spending his early childhood in hospital with polio.
“I think I decided at 14 or 15 that I was going to be a nurse, and no-one could stop me,” he told The Stand.
Prof Davidson – who in 2021 became the first woman and UOW alumna to be named vice-chancellor – said receiving the award with her lifelong friend, colleague and alumnus was very special.
“I am fortunate to have had a far-reaching and varied career, which is a testament to the career versatility that nursing can offer,” she said.
“But above all, I am still a nurse with a vision for a better world driven by the principles of equity and human rights.
“It is in Wollongong that my nursing career began and, many years later, that desire to help others and that passion for healthcare has never left.
“Nursing to me is about connecting with people and doing meaningful work. It is the combination of art and science that I love. And as nursing and health leaders, we still have a lot of work to do to make the world a better, more inclusive place.”
Prof Daly said the recognition was a wonderful day for Australian nursing.
“It’s not so common that these highly prestigious international awards are granted to Australian nurses,” he said.
“Australia has only had nursing as a university degree since the mid-1980s, so it is a significant achievement.”
The Australian’s 2023 Research magazine recently named UOW as the lead institution for nursing, recognising the depth and breadth of expertise.