Nursing alumnus Athol Hann’s app comes at crisis point

It’s still early days for the COVID-19 crisis in Australia but already we’re seeing burnout from nurses on the frontline. One La Trobe alumnus has developed a way to support those most at risk.

After ten years in the job, critical care and emergency nurse Athol Hann knows how gruelling nursing can be at the best of times.

The Bendigo Campus Bachelor of Nursing alumnus is about to launch an app he has spent the past three years developing, to help curb the stress associated with the job.

“I wanted to create an app that would help myself and my colleagues manage the challenges of working in constantly changing teams, of disconnection with colleagues, friends and family, financial uncertainty, grief and the loss of control over personal time,” he says.  

Athol agrees his app, called fwards, is even more crucial given the current crisis.

“There are concerns about how the new challenges brought on by COVID-19 are going to impact the nursing workforce, who already experience high levels of stress, fatigue, uncertainty and burnout,” he says, adding we need to be looking for solutions to support the workforce right now, and into the future.

“We need to ensure that resources for nursing staff continue well after the initial challenges of the pandemic subside.”

Starting out in Bendigo

Athol graduated from the Bendigo Campus in 2009. He says choosing to study at a uni close the family dairy farm in Lockington was one of the best career decisions he’s ever made.

“I was originally accepted into a different degree in Melbourne, but after getting the offer I wasn’t as excited as I thought I would be,” he says.

“Through careful consideration and some great advice from my grandmother, I chose to change to Nursing in Bendigo. This is by far the best decision I have made in my career to date. By being closer to home, in a regional community and studying something that aligned to my strengths and attributes, I was able to flourish.

“I ended up with a great opportunity, made life-long friends and was able to develop the skills needed to begin nursing. What I really appreciated was the close-knit community of students studying at Bendigo. We all supported each other to get the most out of our time at university.”

At La Trobe Athol became part of peer mentor and leadership programs and the La Trobe Rural Health Club. He also managed to nab a spot on one of the rural and regional TV advertisements. 

“When I left Victoria to complete my graduate year in Perth, I felt that my time at La Trobe had prepared me to tackle life as a nurse,” he says.

After graduation Athol drove across the Nullabor to begin his grad program, where he transitioned through Acute Medical, Oncology, Neuro Surgical/Orthopaedics and finally ICU. He then obtained a permanent ICU role, developing critical care skills for multiple patient conditions. Upon leaving intensive care he worked as an agency nurse in multiple ED and HDU departments in regional Western Australia. 

In May 2014, Athol came back home to the farm for a break, and to begin casual Emergency Department positions at Bendigo and Echuca hospitals. The following year he returned to part time nursing at Bendigo Health while working on the farm.

From 2016 to 2018 Athol travelled around Australia as an agency nurse. He found work in Canberra, Richmond (QLD), Yarrabah Aboriginal Community and Mareeba. He is currently a Clinical Emergency Department Nurse in Mackay, QLD.

This wealth of experience has also come with many challenges, such as dealing with personal and workplace demands and a continually-changing schedule. In response to this, is fwards.

Athol says supporting frontline staff to be their best selves at work and home benefits individual workers, the healthcare system and the wider community.

“Happy, fulfilled and rested nurses equal better outcomes for everyone, particularly for patients whose lives can depend on the actions of the nurses they trust to care for them,” he says.

Fwards will be available from May 1, 2020. To find out more about the app visit fwards.com.

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