" Every nurse inspires me each day and I am very proud of all my colleagues. It is a great privilege caring for patients and their families at such a vulnerable time. "
MAY 2022: ANDREW DIMECH - ACTING CHIEF NURSING OFFICER
I was born in Wollongong and grew up in Shellharbour NSW where I went to Mt Warrigal Primary and Lake Illawarra High School. My parents were born in Malta but immigrated to Australia as children with my grandparents. I have a younger brother and sister who still live in Shellharbour - both have children so I have five nephews and nieces.
I recently moved to Melbourne with my partner after working in Europe for 21 years – one year in Dublin and 20 years in London. Our cat also made the long journey from London to Melbourne!
My journey in becoming a nurse began when I was in year 10 at school and looking at where to do my work experience placement. My eldest cousin is an Emergency Department Nurse and suggested I do my work experience at Shellharbour Hospital given I’d always had an interest in health care. It was a fantastic two weeks in ED and I also spent time on a surgical ward, maternity unit and medical ward. From this experience I thought my two career options would be nursing or language teaching (my other interest). I applied for both Nursing and Teaching, with nursing my first option for which I was successful. I continued to study Japanese in the evening at TAFE while at university studying nursing.
I completed my Bachelor of Nursing Degree at the University of Wollongong in 1997. The University of Wollongong had the largest number of clinical placements at the time, hence this was my first choice. It also gave me the option to do clinical placements in Sydney and regional NSW.
I will never forget my first day as a nurse. Day one was with my fellow new grads on induction and we all formed a bond and friendship, many of which continue today. On the ward I met my mentor Una who was originally from Ireland. She worked alongside me every shift and was amazing, managing her own patient case load and supporting me with mine. I had good days and some not so good days. It was daunting and a lot of responsibility at first, but I had great support from Una and my fellow grads. I asked a lot of questions and learnt a lot. Working with Una also then inspired me to go and work in Dublin.
My introduction to oncology occurred during my grad year at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Sydney, when one of my patients needed chemotherapy. My colleagues asked me to go and speak to the ‘Marsden Nurse’ on anther ward. I didn’t know what this meant but then learnt she was a cancer trained nurse from the Royal Marsden in London, so this made me interested in cancer nursing and the skills she possessed.
I then worked in various areas in surgery, medicine, coronary care and ICU before traveling to Dublin. While there, an opportunity arose to work in the Royal Marsden and train to become a cancer nurse, so I made the move. At the Marsden I worked in various medical and surgical wards and the ICU. I then also worked as an ICU NUM, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Critical Care Outreach/ Resuscitation nurse, Nurse Practitioner, Lecturer Practitioner, Divisional Nurse Director, Deputy Chief Nurse and Acting Chief Nurse.
" My passion is ensuring all patients have access to cancer treatment and their experience is appropriately unique to them and their family and carers. In particular, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, people of culturally and liguistically diverse backgrounds, LGBTIQ+ patients feeling safe and confident in our care. "
I have returned for further studies several times in my nursing career, completing the Diploma in Cancer Nursing, a Post Graduate Certificate in Intensive Care, a Supportive Learning in the Clinical Environment Mentorship, a Masters of Science in Advancing Critical Care Practice, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Clinical Practice.
I am also a board member of the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care (ISNCC) where I chair the Member Development Committee. In that role I have worked to build capacity for cancer nurses and supported the development of new cancer nursing societies such as the Ethiopian Oncology Nursing Society and Emirates Oncology Nursing Society.
After working in Europe for 21 years it was time for me to come home. I enquired to see if there were any opportunities at Peter Mac in the future and had an interview while in my two-week quarantine hotel in Sydney for the Acting Chief Nursing Officer role to cover maternity leave. I was lucky enough to be appointed and flew directly from quarantine to Melbourne, starting in September 2021.
I have always had a passion for acute cancer care and ensuring that patients have access to advanced care, including ICU where appropriate, wherever they may live. I also really enjoy working with and supporting students and graduate nurses. It is amazing to see the progress and confidence of our newest colleagues grow and then seeing them then go on to support others.
Over the years, I have worked with so many inspiring nurse leaders across my career in Australia and the UK. These include Una Butler my first mentor, Shelley Dolan, Sanchia Aranda, Stella Bialous and Patsy Yates. In reality, every nurse inspires me each day and I am very proud of all my colleagues. It is a great privilege caring for patients and their families at such a vulnerable time.