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Andrew became a nurse because it seemed like a nice, comfortable job. As a 19-year-old welder in Hawke’s Bay, he visited a workmate in hospital with burns. “It was a foul, rainy, cold day in winter, and the ward was nice and warm; the nurses were coming in with the evening tea trolley. There was a male orderly and I asked him what he did; he said ‘I’m a nurse trainee’,” Cameron says. “I thought about it for a few days and made enquiries. When I left work my mates at work said, ‘That’s not a job for a man’.”
They wouldn’t say that to him now. He is working on eradicating polio from southern Afghanistan. A typical day might see him travel to an international military base to assess the health of POWs, or train Afghani taxi drivers in first aid, vital in a region where ambulances are scarce, or check prisons for any signs of health-in-detention abuses. “We make sure detainees are properly cared for according to the Geneva Conventions… that prisoners are cared for properly.”
Andrew had wanted to work for New Zealand Red Cross since the 1980s, and completed his postgraduate diploma at Wellington Polytechnic (now Massey University) to increase his chances of being selected for aid work. “I thought I’d better get some academic qualifications,” he says. “It was good for me to catch up with all the theories and the social side of nursing rather than the technical side. The way I trained it was purely medical.”
He was named Australian Nurse of the Year in 2004. He is also one of a few New Zealanders to be awarded the Red Cross’s Florence Nightingale Medal. It is given to about 40 nurses worldwide every two years “for courage and devotion to the sick and disabled or to civilian victims of conflicts”.
“It was pretty amazing. I was the 25th Kiwi in 100 years to receive the award so that was pretty cool I reckon,” Cameron says. “No one comes to these places to get medals or anything; it was just really nice to get a pat on the back.”
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Last updated on Tuesday 16 August 2016