Emma Williams’ move from emergency nursing to public health advocacy

26 April 2024

Working as a triage nurse in emergency, Emma Williams started to consider how people became so unwell they ended up in hospital and what she could do to help them avoid it. Her experience inspired a second career change.

Emma is completing her Master of Public Health with a placement at Health Translation Queensland (HTQ), thanks to a partnership between HTQ and The University of Queensland’s School of Public Health.

“Before I became a nurse, I was a high school teacher,” Emma explained. “When my children were young, I studied nursing and worked shifts around my family’s needs.”

“In emergency, you are caring for very unwell people. You’re not necessarily aware of the research in the background to improve health outcomes.

“My university placement with HTQ has opened my eyes to many ways and people involved in translating health and medical research into practice.”

Before she started her placement for a subject called Directed Studies in Public Health, Emma hadn’t heard of HTQ.

“It’s been a good learning curve, professionally and personally, and wonderful to be part of a team working to identify and bridge the gaps in health care so that consumers benefit from evidence-based practice.

“The HTQ team is welcoming and inclusive, and I’ve gained so much knowledge.

“I’ve also had the opportunity to contribute insights from my health care experience and teaching to HTQ’s Mental Health Collaborative Group project. The project is currently developing an online hub which aims to serve as a centralised resource for the diverse mental health workforce in Queensland.

“You don’t realise how much you know until you explain it to others. This experience has made me realise I have transferrable and useful skills to share.”

In addition to her studies, Emma works part-time as a triage nurse for 13HEALTH and as a clinical nurse for Mater’s new Multicultural Health Coordination Program, facilitating access to health care for culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Emma can relate to the challenges people from other countries face navigating Australia’s health care system as she came to Australia from Fiji almost 20 years ago.

“It is a great feeling to be able to help people who may not have the same health literacy, language skills or social confidence that you do.

“After I graduate, I hope to work in public health policy, perhaps in mental health or from the multicultural side – I know there are things we can improve that will help keep people out of hospital.”

For details about HTQ’s Mental Health Collaborative Group, visit our webpage.

For information about the HTQ-UQ School of Public Health Partnership, please email Sarah Scott.

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