Queen’s honour for local nurse

Kerry Reid-Searl with one of her
Pup-Ed mannequins.

A NURSE whose ground-breaking teaching methods are used around the world was recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Kerry Reid-Searl has been made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her  significant service to nurse education.

Professor Reid-Searl grew up in the Derwent Valley before her nursing career took her to the Torres Strait Islands and beyond. Her innovative teaching methods have been adopted around the world and while she is now an academic at the Central Queensland University she continues to work as a paediatric nurse.

Kerry was born in Hobart and moved to New Norfolk around age 13 when her mother Anne married New Norfolk businessman Arch Andrews. Growing up in New Norfolk she was a member of the local waterpolo, swimming and hockey clubs. In the local environment she enjoyed bushwalking, skiing and river kayaking, which have been lifelong pursuits.

“I continue to paddle as much as I can, although it’s mostly sea-kayaking now,” the long-term Queensland resident said. She attended New Norfolk High School, which she remembers as a happy time where she was exposed to some of the most inspirational educators she has met.

After matriculating at Elizabeth College in Hobart, Kerry attended the School of Art but eventually switched to nursing and trained at St John’s Hospital in Hobart. She later worked at the Royal Hobart Hospital for a time, until setting her sights further afield.

“I decided I needed to go somewhere different, and went to Thursday Island, spending many years in the Torres Strait Islands in various medical posts,” she said. It was there that she met her husband, teacher Roger Searl, and the couple have three grown children.

Kerry returned to mainland Australia to work in midwifery in Townsville. She also worked in remote aboriginal communities before ending up in Rockhampton as lecturer at the Central Queensland University. Now with a Bachelor of Nursing, a masters degree and a PhD to her name, Kerry has progressed from associate lecturer to university professor.

Kerry Reid-Searl, left, with her mother Anne Andrews.

As an educator, Kerry’s long-term interest patient safety saw her look for different ways of learning, culminating in a “lightbulb moment” while watching the movie Mrs Doubtfire, featuring actor Robin Williams in a female bodysuit. Hollywood was unwilling to provide her with a set of male and female bodysuits so she found a costume-maker to do the job and went on to pioneer Mask-Ed, a new approach to teaching where she dons a full-body silicon prop and adopts the character of a former butcher or a retired matron.

This award-winning method has since been expanded to include silicon puppets used to teach students how to treat children, known as Pup-Ed. She has given three-day workshops across throughout Australia, New Zealand and Japan, as well as in the UK and the US. All the while, Kerry has continued her nursing career and has branched out to Nepal where she teaches young women to be able to work as caregivers.

Among her many accolades she was named the Nurse Teacher of the Year in 2009 and has twice received her university’s Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. She also has two Australian Learning and Teaching citations, an Australian Simulation Achievement award and an Australian University Excellence in Teaching Award.

Kerry has also also written and co-authored numerous nursing textbooks used throughout Australia. “I say that it takes a village to raise a child and that is the journey I have had,” Kerry said after being named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

“There are so many individuals who have walked with me to gain this award and so I acknowledge every student, every colleague, every friend and family who have been a part of this. I have also been blessed working at CQ University where the motto ‘dare to be different’ is embraced. This award is priceless.”

Kerry and her family have a holiday house in Tasmania and like to visit as often as possible, especially to see her mother Anne who has always been an inspiration to her.

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