Dr Emily Tomlinson is a Lecturer in Nursing at Deakin University. A Registered Nurse, Emily worked at Eastern Health for nine years before completing her PhD in 2016. Emily’s current research interests include nursing care of older people with delirium and cognitive impairment, and decreasing the use of antipsychotics in delirium management. She is a member of the Institute for Health Transformation’s Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research (QPS), Co-Chair of the Institute’s EMCR committee and a member of the Australasian Delirium Association committee.


What does the year of the Nurse and Midwife mean to you?

 The year of the Nurse and Midwife is so important in recognising the valuable contribution of nurses and midwives to healthcare. The year of the Nurse and Midwife really shows not only the world that nurses and midwives are essential but also allows nurses and midwives to recognise that we do amazing work. I often feel like nurses and midwives underestimate the impact they have on people’s lives.

 Over the course of your life what has been your proudest accomplishment?

 I think becoming a Mum has been my proudest personal accomplishment. Apart from becoming a nurse there was nothing else I really ever wanted more.

 Over the course of your career what has been your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest career accomplishment would have to be completing my PhD. I always had a drive to study and really enjoyed the intellectual curiosity that I was given the chance to explore when I worked on my PhD. It was such a great feeling to finish a piece of work that I had been pouring my whole life into for just over three years.

I also have moments that I often think about when a patient or a patient’s family thanked me for caring for them or their loved one. I felt very privileged to care for people when they were vulnerable and saw it as part of my job. It was always very heart warming and gratifying when people expressed how thankful they were. Those are the moments that sustain some of those really hard days in nursing, knowing that you were making a difference even though you felt like you weren’t achieving anything.

 What did you want to be when you were younger? And when did you decide to become a nurse or midwife?

 When I was younger I really wanted to be a teacher. It wasn’t until I got a bit older and learnt more about nursing that I realised that nursing was where I should go. Once I had decided I wanted to do nursing there was never any doubt that I would become a nurse.

I’ve combined my earlier passion for teaching with nursing though, as I’m now a Lecturer in Nursing. One of my favourite aspects of my clinical work was supervising students. I was the one who would be allocated students almost every time there were students on the ward. My passion for mentoring students led me into academia and teaching. I really enjoy my job and working closely with students is what I love to do. 

 What inspires you to do your job?

 I’m inspired by the people around me. I work with a really amazing group of nurses and midwives. We all have our own stories and experiences, which creates a vibrant and interesting diversity. I love working with other people and often feel energised by ideas that are shared in groups. This is important to me in my research work as I often seek the ideas and opinions of others. The achievements of my colleagues are also very inspirational; when nurses succeed in advancing practice and contribute evidence it inspires me to want to do more. Students also inspire me; especially this year we have seen resilience and perseverance from all our students and they continue to do the work that needs to be done to succeed.

 What got you interested in becoming a researcher in the area of nursing and midwifery; what do you hope to achieve with your research?

There was one particular patient who really stands out for me as a defining moment for me wanting to pursue research further. He had a delirium and I was really concerned by how we were managing him. I was early on in my career as a nurse and I was overwhelmed by not knowing what to do that would make this patient’s journey better. After he had been discharged, I often reflected on what happened and did some literature searching on delirium. I discovered that we could have done better, and I was determined to make sure that things did get better. Over 10 years later, I have a PhD specialising in delirium and I’m continuing to research in this area. I really hope that one day I can say that I contributed to making the experiences of those who have delirium better through my research.