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Nurse Pat is a quiet achiever


Zoe Satherley
13 January 2009
Pat Macbeth is the quiet, unassuming type. “I want the focus to be on ‘the work’ and not on me,” she insists as she pores over the papers that have just delivered this grandmother and great-grandmother a $10,000 nursing scholarship which will marry her work in trauma and healing with foot care in aged care facilities across the state.

The two seemingly unrelated areas are in fact central to Pat’s studies at Southern Cross University, where she is undertaking a Bachelor of Indigenous Studies (Trauma and Healing) and her private nursing work, supporting older people with their basic foot care requirements.

The Australian Government funded Postgraduate Community Aged Care Nursing Scholarship has been awarded by the Royal College of Nursing Australia for Pat’s professional development.

In her younger days, Pat was a nurse unit manager and a specialist orthopaedic nurse in big city hospitals and has vast nursing experience.

She was very interested in research that showed a patient’s recovery and ability to cope was much swifter and more likely to lead to optimum rehabilitation if a specialist nurse was able to follow them up at home, after their discharge from hospital.

It was during these home visits that Pat realised just how much simple positive measures like basic foot/nail/skin care could contribute to a person’s sense of well being and their positive attitude to life.

Pat, who also has a certificate in reflexology and a diploma in remedial massage, says the regular care and maintenance of a person’s feet is vital - not just for fitness or the health of the whole body, but also for a person’s emotional wellbeing.

“One of the crucial things I find is that if older people’s feet hurt - for any number of both simple and complex reasons, they are less likely to want to go anywhere. They will stay at home and become sedentary and in a very short time this may negatively affect both their health and social life as their network of friends drops off and they become less and less independent in all tasks of daily living. Foot problems can also be relative to knee, hip, spine, neck and gait problems.

“I find that caring for a person’s feet can play an important part in their recovery - not just from a nursing perspective but also from a human perspective. For many older people the only time they are touched is when I visit and do their routine foot care.

"It is a point of human contact they would otherwise not have. We chat and I listen to their concerns. It is something they look forward to very much and generally they feel wonderful afterwards.

“I like the fact that I can make a difference in a person’s life, even if it is just in my small way.”

Pat works with people in various aged care facilities across the Northern Rivers and in Goondiwindi. “Receiving the scholarship is such an honour and it will allow me to work in more communities, especially in Indigenous communities,” Pat said.

Pat took up her University studies last year for a fresh challenge. “I have no idea where it will lead me,” she said. “People always ask me ‘but what do you want to do with your qualification?’ and I try and explain that it is just the journey I am interested in - not the end result. I am excited by learning. The more I learn the more I want to learn.

“I am finding that the Bachelor of Indigenous Studies is opening me up to myself again. There is a special depth of acceptance I am finding at Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples that is both very healing and very energising.”

Mature age students like Pat as well as school leavers still have time to apply for a 2009 place at Southern Cross University as offers will continue to be made throughout January and early February.

There are a number of exciting study options covering every possible need for busy people juggling work, friends and family commitments.

For further information on course details and how to apply go to or email your questions to or phone 1800 626 481.

Photo: Pat Macbeth’s lifelong love of learning inspired her to enrol in University. Now she has won a $10,000 nursing scholarship and hopes to work with aged people doing foot care. (High resolution image available on request).