Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer (CNMO) returned to the hospital where she launched her career as she met NHS leaders and toured her old department.

Professor Alison McMillan visited Sunderland Royal Hospital, where she trained on the job between 1982 and 1985 and worked in its Emergency Department.

Her studies in the then School of Nursing were based at Bede House, which still remains on site.

She was inspired to go into nursing after she learned first aid when she worked in Boots in Eldon Square, Newcastle.

Alison was born in Peterlee. She grew up in Washington and Chester-le-Street and went to Washington Comprehensive.

During her visit to the city, she met with the leaders of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

She spent time talking about the work of the Trust with its Chief Executive Ken Bremner MBE and its Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals Melanie Johnson.

They also discussed the work Alison is leading in Australia.

This includes developing the national nursing workforce strategy and the nurse practitioner 10 year plan.

Melanie and Head of Nursing Barbara Goodfellow then led a tour of the Emergency Department, which has been rebuilt since her time at the hospital, including its Paediatric Emergency Department.

They also visited other areas of the hospital to show its work on the frontline and stopped by Bede House, which is now offices, as her walk of the site came to a close.

Alison said: “It’s been great to come back and to see the hospital, but also what work is being done here.”

Melanie added: “It was a great honour to welcome Alison back to Sunderland Royal Hospital, show her around our Emergency Department and introduce her to our colleagues.

“They were able to show her first hand the excellent work they do and the challenges they face.

“It was interesting to have that exchange of information about how our hospitals work and share those differences, as well as talk about our common ground.

“We also discussed in detail what each country does to support the development of its healthcare staff and how we are working to bring new people into the profession.

“Alison’s career started with us and we are delighted she has gone on to do such significant work to improve healthcare, wellbeing and ultimately save lives and help people live better.”

She offers strategic advice to the Australian Government in the role as CNMO. She is also a Professor at Monash University in Melbourne.

She has won several awards for her work. This includes a Public Service Medal (PSM). This is similar to the UK’s OBE. The award was for outstanding public service during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was particularly around infection prevention measures.

Alison is also an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) member.

Deployments have included the repatriation of Australians from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan (2020), to Fiji following cyclone Winston (2016), Vanuatu following cyclone Pam (2015) and Banda Aceh, Indonesia (2005) following the Indian Ocean Tsunami.