Celebrating our dedicated nurses and midwives

05 May 2022

Sue Nickolai: Every day, and every patient, is different

“Nursing is a great career. It’s a caring profession of course, and within it are so many options and choices you can pursue depending on your interests and motivations,” says Nurse Consultant Acute Pain Service Division Surgical Specialities and Anaesthetics Sue Nickolai.

Sue commenced her nurse training at the Lyell McEwin Hospital (LMH) in 1982 and after a brief move to the Queen Elizabeth returned to the LMH to work in anaesthesia and recovery – an area she continued to return to – even after a spell as a midwife!

nurse Paige Elliott and Sue Nickolai
L-R: NALHN nurses Paige Elliott and Sue Nickolai

“Anaesthesia and recovery were really always my passion. To be able to assess a patient quickly and help them to achieve the pain management they need quickly and safely, and to help them feel better, is the challenge with each new patient. Every day, and every patient, is different, and rising to that challenge is what keeps you motivated.”

After submissions by the Nursing Director of Surgery and the Director of Anaesthesia there was successful approval for funding for a full time Acute Pain Service (APS) Registered Nurse position in August 2006. Following Sue’s appointment to the role she was able to build a strong relationship with Dr Pam Macintyre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital – information sharing that was critical to the success of the LMH APS.

Northern Adelaide Local Health Network In 2018 the APS commenced an Innovation Project for a pain scoring tool introduction across NALHN for elderly and cognitively impaired patients. The cross divisional project was included in a Best Practice Spotlight Organisation (BPSO) training program across NALHN for dementia education.

Following completion of the project the Pain Assessment in Advanced Dementia Scale (PAINAD) tool for pain assessment in the Cognitively Impaired was implemented as a recognised tool and has been included as part of the NALHN Behaviour, Sleep and Pain Assessment Chart released in 2019.
Another success for the LMH APS is the ROCKet Research Program (Reduction of Chronic Post-surgical Pain with Ketamine).

“ROCKet Research is a multi-centre randomised trial of the effect of perioperative ketamine on the risk of development of chronic post-surgical pain. Patient participation in the research is voluntary – by consent – and recruitment of patients will continue until the end of 2022,” says Sue.

“The study aims to find out whether chronic post-surgical pain is prevented using ketamine given during, or both during and after surgery, and will provide important information to guide anaesthetists who care for patients undergoing major operations,” says Sue.

Paige Elliott: Building rapport and trust

“I heard great things about NALHN’s Birth Centre at the Lyell McEwin Hospital (LMH) while I was still studying midwifery at UniSA,” says Registered Midwife Paige Elliott. She did her Transition to Professional Practice Program at LMH and five years on she is quick to confirm that it was the right career choice.

“I wanted to be involved in a caring profession, where I can help others, and particularly in women’s health,” she says.

Being a midwife in the Birth Centre means being involved with the process right from pregnancy through to birth. This involves antenatal assessments, labour care, birth, postnatal care, antenatal clinic, and any associated administration including liaison with doctors, referrals and follow up. The Northern Adelaide Local Health Network serves a large catchment comprising some of the fastest growing suburbs in SA – so the demand for these services is high, making the life of a NALHN midwife an extremely busy one!

“You are with a family from the outset, through each step, and any pregnancy can have complications, so there can be highs and lows too,” says Paige. “So being a midwife can be both physically and emotionally demanding, and that’s part of the role. And it becomes a big part of who you are as a person.”

Asked for her advice to those interested in the profession, Paige says you need to be committed to the study, motivated by the desire to help others, and excited by the knowledge that you and your team will help bring many, many new children into the world, with safety and care.

“There is great satisfaction is knowing that you provide continuity for the women and their families. You see them again and again throughout the process, and you can see how much that means in building the rapport and trust they need.”