An Australia Day honour: New title for Avondale nursing academic

Professor Brett Mitchell [Credit: Maddy Voinea].

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An internationally-recognised Avondale academic appears in this year’s Australia Day Honours List “for significant service to nursing, particularly infection prevention and control.”

Professor Brett Mitchell’s appointment is as a Member of the Order of Australia General Division. Simply being considered for the award surprised Professor Mitchell. So, being approved by the Governor-General, as chancellor of the Order of Australia, is “humbling.”

“I accept the award in honour of all the other nurses who contribute significantly to patient care and research and go unrecognised every day,” said Professor Mitchell. With a predicated shortage of nurses, “anything that highlights the importance of the role they play in our community is vital for recruitment and retention.”

The award has also been selected for the COVID-19 honour roll, which recognises honours recipients as having served in support of or contributed to Australia’s response to the pandemic. Professor Mitchell is a member of the National COVID Evidence Taskforce Leadership Group and co-led the COVID-19 accommodation program as executive director, Infection Prevention and Control, for COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria.

His commitment to infection prevention and control has reciprocal support from government and industry. He received a $A1.5 million grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2022 to further study the prevention of healthcare-acquired infections and, later that year, became the first nurse to receive a federal government award for excellence in health and medical research. He then received $A1.5 million from the Medical Research Future Fund in 2023 to help prevent healthcare-associated pneumonia.

The grants and the award were key to Professor Mitchell’s induction into the International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame this past year.

A Fellow of the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control and the Australian College of Nursing, Professor Mitchell is editor-in-chief of international peer-reviewed journal Infection, Disease and Health and a former chair of a National Health and Medical Research Council committee revising national infection control guidelines for Australian hospitals.

One in 10 patients—or 165,000 people a year—are likely to get an infection they did not have before going into hospital. Despite the increase in morbidity, mortality and antimicrobial resistance—not to mention length of stay—strategies to prevent healthcare-associated infections are informed by low-quality evidence. So, his focus has been on increasing patient safety by finding better ways to reduce infections. “Making life a little bit better is not only good for the patient but also for the community because we can increase hospital capacity, freeing up beds for elective surgery.”

Professor Mitchell completed his PhD at Australian Catholic University in 2013. He is now Professor of Health Services Research and Nursing at Avondale University, which offers the number one undergraduate nursing course in Australia as ranked by students.

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