Our hero screening thousands at Sydney Airport in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19

Just three months ago she was devoting her time to support bushfire-affected communities in the South Coast.

Now, Liz Ryan – Acting Clinical Nurse Consultant in South Eastern Sydney Local Health District's (SESLHD) Disaster Management Unit – is working tirelessly screening thousands of people flying into Australia at Sydney airport for signs of coronavirus.

SESLHD’s Disaster Management Unit is playing a vital role, in a partnership with Australian Border Force and the Australian Department of Agriculture Biosecurity, to identify which passengers require assessment for COVID-19.

Over the past two months, Ms Ryan and her team of warriors have screened more than 46,000 people at Sydney Airport alone.

“We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this outstanding result without the brilliant team work between Nursing, Medical, Ambulance, Biosecurity, Border Force as well as the excellent interpreters with us on the ground. Everybody has worked so incredibly hard,” Ms Ryan said.

“It’s also been great to see that passengers, on the whole, are really happy to be screened and to receive advice on what to do if they get sick, information about isolation and details surrounding how to protect their families.

“If they have symptoms they’re keen to get tested too. Overall, they’re all just really pleased to be back home in Australia,” Ms Ryan said.

Anthony Cook, Disaster Manager, SESLHD said he is impressed by the cohesive collaboration between all of the services that have come together to make airport screening possible and acknowledged the sturdy relationships already in place that have no doubt facilitated their success.

However the big standout, according to Mr Cook, is the collaboration between SESLHD’s frontline staff. “I’d like to make mention of the amazing team work that’s been seen within our district. There has been an incredible response from our Nursing and Midwifery team – especially from Emily Matthews, Workforce and Capability Nurse Manager under the leadership of Kim Olesen, Director, Nursing and Midwifery Services – and the support and leadership shown by all the Facility Nurse Managers in filling the roster has been inspiring.

“Also, the way Liz Ryan and other senior nurses have managed complex problems and situations every day at the airport is something to be very proud of.”

Ms Ryan said the exercise has also been a wonderful opportunity to work alongside staff from SESLHD’s many hospitals. “We’ve all really enjoyed meeting one another and comparing stories from across our district.”

Liz Ryan outside Prince of Wales Hospital