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Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) Emergency Department Clinical Nurse Consultant Ruth Jebb is one of 39 nurses from 22 countries to receive the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal awarded for exceptional courage and devotion to the sick, wounded or disabled in conflict and disaster zones.
During her 13 years at PAH, Ruth spent more than five years abroad on International Red Cross missions which included trips to Sudan, Kenya, Chad, Haiti, the Philippines and Nepal.
“As a nurse it doesn’t matter where I am I absolutely love what I am doing, I love my job here at the PAH and I love the work overseas too,” she said.
But her volunteer work came with greater risk.
In May 2015 Ruth was working in Nepal following the April 25 earthquake, which killed and injured tens of thousands of people, when a second earthquake hit.
"I was in a taxi in Kathmandu when the second earthquake hit, I thought I was going to die, to be honest,” she said.
Despite a number of other close calls, including being carjacked in Sudan, Ruth didn’t stop volunteering whenever she was needed.
Ruth said juggling the two jobs wasn’t always easy but she was able to do it with support from PAH.
“I have a management role and with the demands of a busy department it’s not always easy to find people to fill my position. Some missions I could only give 24 hours’ notice, but each time the team would work the roster around so I could go,” she said.
“When I was away, during hard or scary time, I would receive messages of support from my colleagues. And then each time I returned everyone was interested in hearing my story and learning from it.”
Ruth said her volunteer work has made her a better nurse.
“The PAH have recognised that the work that I have done overseas makes me the person I am and enriches my capacity as a Clinical Nurse Consultant,” She said.
“I have an understanding of people that I don’t think I would have if I wasn’t an aid worker and I’m able to share that understanding, experience and knowledge with my colleagues.”
Ruth said she was now focusing on raising her seven-month-old son but volunteering would always be her passion.
“My priority now is to bring up a child who hopefully has the same values. We’ll see what the next few years hold, I never know when I’m going to be needed and it’s my passion so I plan to return and help out,” she said.