Krista-Lee Nurses Solomon Islands Back to Health

No Pain, No Gain—that’s Krista-Lee’s favourite saying. “If you don’t feel the pain, you haven’t gone anywhere.” Krista-Lee expands, “I believe in second chances.” In Krista-Lee’s case, that pain has taken her from the Solomon Islands—where, as an emergency nurse she fought to improve the impact of natural disasters and the lack of established and efficient systems to prolong and preserve the quality of lives in her community—to Australia, where as part of the Australia Awards Scholarships program she undertook a Master of Nursing, specialising in Acute Care. Krista-Lee then returned to the Solomon Islands to put her hard-earned education to work, empowering her colleagues to be the best they can be with the ultimate goal of improving the state of emergency medicine. Being mature-aged, Krista-Lee still wanted to further her education and when a friend of hers applied and was accepted to the Australia Awards Scholarships, he suggested that as there were no age restrictions she submit an application of her own. To Krista-Lee’s delight, she was accepted soon after. Heading to Flinders University in Adelaide to study the newly created Master of Nursing, specialising in Acute Care, Krista-Lee said goodbye to her husband and children for a period of what was only supposed to be 18 months. In Australia she met other international students from varied backgrounds, who were bound together by a shared desire to use their newly acquired knowledge to improve their countries—an experience Krista-Lee considers the highlight of her time there. Unfortunately for Krista-Lee, the experience was not without its tragedies. Part way through her degree she received news of her husband’s death and due to COVID restrictions, she was unable to return to the Solomon Islands. This was an incredibly difficult time for her, but with an extension and support of the Australia Awards team, Krista-Lee still finished her degree within two years.  Krista-Lee returned to the Solomon Islands just in time to wield her newfound leadership skills and knowledge-based authority into leading a team of nurses through the battle against COVID-19 at its peak. The team worked long shifts, often six days in a row, with limited staff, space and resources—isolated from their families—fighting tirelessly to minimise the damage of the ruthless pandemic. Krista-Lee credits the Australia Awards Scholarship with helping her develop the voice to stand on her feet and say: “Hey! This is what’s happening.” Now a supervisor and nurse consultant for Solomon Islands’ National Referral Hospital, Krista-Lee has been encouraging all her friends to apply for an Australia Award Scholarship: “Get the education and come back and improve the system, because we could have better leadership on all levels. If you’re a female, they will supress you because there is a male colleague sitting next to you and he will be the one to be seen as a leader. We want to break that cycle and improve gender equality in our society.” “… go get the qualification and come back and network together to improve our system in the country in terms of leadership, entrepreneurship, in all levels of the country.” To new awardees, Krista Lee had this advice to give: “One thing I would advise them on is how diverse Australia is and how they would love whichever university they would go to and mingling with other international students who have gone to get the same education that we ourselves have applied for. It’s free, just apply for it and come back and improve your country. I would advise anyone with this goal to go for it, it is now or never. If you try and you don’t get it, then apply the following year.”