Former Orange student Nikki Johnston has just had a week you could only dream of.
Following the announcement on Tuesday night that she was named the inaugural winner of the federal Health minister's award for Nursing Trailblazers she received an Order of Australia medal later in the week.
Her OAM, originally announced on Australia Day, was for services to nursing.
Ms Johnston, who did her HSC at Orange High School, said it was an "overwhelming" experience.
I'm very, very proud that nursing has been recognised. It's also about being a woman.Nikki Johnston
She now lives and works in Canberra where she is a nurse practitioner developing a major project to improve palliative care in residential aged care units which has already received $32 million in government funding.
"It's a little bit overwhelming. It's a massive honour. I have worked really, really hard and I suppose it's having that acknowledged," she said.
"I'm very, very proud that nursing has been recognised. It's also about being a woman."
She said there was an imbalance, even in nursing, of males being recognised and awarded honours more than women.
Ms Johnston said while many nurses were female, men generally held higher roles, in managerial and research positions, and had been recognised.
She said she first found out about the honour via an email.
"It's all embargoed. I got an email about six weeks before saying that you have been nominated and asking you would you accept the award," she said.
Ms Johnston said it took only "about five minutes" to write back confirming her acceptance.
She said after receiving a second note confirming she would be getting the honour she had to keep quiet.
"For a month I wasn't allowed to tell anybody," she said.
She said about 80 fellow honours' recipients attended presentation ceremonies at Government House last Thursday and Friday.
Ms Johnston said she started her nursing training in 1987 after her HSC the year before and with extra study became a nurse practitioner in 2008.
She is currently continuing to work on the palliative care project which she hopes, after a research trial in Canberra involving 1700 aged care residents in 2017, can be rolled out across Australia.
"We need to change the way we care for people," Ms Johnston said.
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