International Nurses Day: Meet the rockstar RN of St John Health

Within the halls of St John Urgent Care, Colleen Henderson is more than just a nurse – she’s an inspiration to those around her and with 50-years in nursing under her belt, she’s a bit of a legend.

Recently honoured as a St John WA (SJWA) Outstanding Woman for International Women’s Day, Colleen’s impact on those around her was clear when she received a staggering 11 nominations from her peers.

Her co-workers said it was a privilege to call Colleen a friend and a colleague.

“Colleen’s energy, clinical knowledge and enthusiasm is so remarkable.”

“She is such an amazing member of our team, and I am always so happy to see her on the roster.

Colleen joined SJWA’s Urgent Care Cockburn team 10 years ago, with a wealth of experience across most specialties and advanced skills in emergency.

With a nursing career that has spanned three countries over five decades, Colleen said one of her proudest highlights had been raising her two children amid such a demanding career.

“My husband is a paramedic, so I’m very proud of the juggle of shift work for such a long time while raising our two kids,” she said.

Starting out as an aged care nurses aid in New Zealand in the 70s, Colleen said it was the most physically challenging job she has ever had.

International Nurses Day: Colleen Henderson as a first year nurse – 1974

“The matron there gave me some invaluable advice that’s stayed with me ever since,” she said.

“She said, ‘If you can do this, then you can do anything in life and to never lower your expectations to anyone else’s, always make them rise to yours’”.

Mentorship has continued to play an important role in her career, as both mentor and mentee Colleen said that she loves the idea that you are never too old to learn, or to teach.

“The great thing about mentoring is that in most instances it just happens without burden or thought,” she said.

“I have been fortunate to be surrounded by natural leaders who I have learnt from – whether it be doctors, nurses, receptionists, friends or family.

“Mentoring comes down to open communication and reflection, rather than status.”

Her peers celebrate her as a beloved mentor, and someone that always strives for excellence for not just herself, but the whole team.

They said she is the one you want by your side during a long shift.

“Colleen inspires her colleagues to keep going and be better every day.”

“She gives new nurses and current team a reason to keep in the profession, no matter how small or big the issue is.”

Recognising Colleen’s legacy serves as a poignant reminder of the invaluable contributions of SJWA’s quiet achievers.

Her dedication, knowledge, and unwavering commitment to excellence embody the spirit of nursing and provide inspiration to the healthcare professionals following in her footsteps.

When asked about the nomination and recognition from her colleagues, Colleen said that she felt humbled yet proud.

“It’s amazing what can go on that you are unaware of! It was enough being celebrated by the team for my 50th anniversary in nursing – the decorations, gifts and morning tea was lovely,” she said.

“The response from patients when they read the banner at Cockburn ‘Congratulations Colleen on 50 years of nursing’ has been wonderful. Only one has said I must be nearly ready to retire.”

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