Nursing on the front line
Aid workers Denise Moyle and Yvonne Ginifer received the Florence Nightingale Medals in 2019 for exceptional courage and dedication to the victims of armed conflict or natural disaster. This medal recognises exemplary service or a creative and pioneering spirit in the areas of public health or nursing education.
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Denise Moyle fell into the profession of nursing and had a hard time finding her passion within the field. She tried many different positions, but couldn’t find her place, it just didn’t feel right. Until one day she saw an advertisement for the Australian Red Cross and thought: I’ll just give it a go. “And bang, it hit the nail on the head”, she said in the Nursing Review magazine

”I am forever grateful”

– Denise Moyle, Australia

During her time at the Red Cross she has been deployed in different countries during different kind of crises. She has played a critical role in surgery teams across Sudan and Pakistan, also recently heading up health teams in the world’s biggest refugee camps in Bangladesh.
"The opportunities I've had with Australian Red Cross, the fabulous mentors along the way and the privilege of assisting some of the world’s most brave and humbling people in their times of desperate need has truly shaped me. I am forever grateful," Denise says.

But she admits it hasn’t always been easy. “You used to be able to display [the Red Cross emblem, edit.] with pride all over the world. Whereas more and more there is less respect in parts of the world, and I don’t think we can fly under the radar with our protective emblem… At times it makes us more vulnerable.”

Let alone the mental effects of working in an emergency area. After spending 18 months in Pakistan, where an earthquake killed more than 100 000 people, she had a hard time adjusting to life back home in Australia. “The impact of how I’d been holding it together for so long, without batting an eyelid, was significant for me”, she explains in the magazine. She took three months off to get used to her life again and processing everything she had seen.

Despite all the struggles she has had, she loves what she does. She has found her niche and loves being a nurse. She is honoured that she received the Florence Nightingale medal. “It is a good opportunity to signify the role of a nurse and how valuable nurses can be. I feel really honoured and proud to have been acknowledged.”

”I had to do something significant”

– Yvonne Ginifer, Australia

Yvonne Ginifer worked in the response to contain Liberia’s Ebola epidemic, also providing medical care and protecting the health of communities during armed conflicts and disasters in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and South Sudan.

She was born with an adventurous spirit, as a kid she moved around a lot as her parents worked as teachers and once she got out of university she felt the need to go and explore. For three years she worked as a nurse in rural and remote communities, often being the only nurse in town. “Working independently, you have to be really confident in your skills and make good decisions”, she explains in Nursing Review magazine. It gave her a good basis for her work for the Red Cross. “I had to do something significant, something with my life that I can be satisfied with in the long term. And that’s when I thought, Red Cross it is, I am going for that.”

”I felt the responsibility to go because I could go”

– Yvonne Ginifer, Australia

Soon she found herself going to conflict and disaster affected areas in Myanmar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and even Liberia where she was part of the medical team attempting to control the Ebola epidemic. “Someone had to do it. They needed as many people to go as possible, and I felt I had a responsibility to go, because I could go.”

Although she has worked in some of the most dangerous regions, Ginifer has mostly felt safe during her time abroad. “I have great faith in the Red Cross structures and systems for security. But it is pretty tricky out there, and some places are more difficult than others.”

Ginifer therefore stresses the importance of psychological support for nurses that are working out in the field. She praises the Red Cross approach that has always given her support before, during and after a mission. When she heard that she received the Florence Nightingale Medal, she was shocked.

“I have worked with many exceptional nurses who undertake humanitarian work in critical and difficult situations. They are equally and more deserving of this recognition. Whilst this award is for nurses, none of us work without the support of volunteers and local staff.”

The women were selected by the International Council of Nurses, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Denise Moyle and Yvonne Ginifer

Australia, 2019

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Globally, women are currently 118 years away from closing the gender gap.

– When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive: The World’s Most Comprehensive Research on Women in the Workplace.

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