THREE years ago Rockhampton's Jenny Anderson faced a tough choice.
She could either walk away from Rockhampton Hospital's renal service, which was floundering under a rapidly expanding workload and significant nursing workforce issues, or step up to the challenge of rebuilding the unit from the ground up.
Ms Anderson chose the latter.
In Melbourne on Thursday night she was named Nurse of the Year at the HESTA Australian Nursing Awards.
The award recognised Ms Anderson's efforts since she successfully applied for the job of nurse unit manager, and took her passion - and the skills gained during 20 years of clinical nursing - to the task of strengthening and expanding the unit.
Today it has a team of mostly young nursing staff, assisted by a select band of experienced nurses "cajoled" out of retirement by Ms Anderson.
The unit has moved into new purpose-built premises, established a satellite unit at Gladstone Hospital and significantly expanded home therapy services, allowing many patients to avoid a three-hour drive for treatment.
Ms Anderson said the past few years had been "a journey" with Thursday night's awards a welcome opportunity to reflect on what she had achieved with her "amazing" team.
"I believe patients deserve the very best care that we can give them. Nursing is a privilege and you need to be doing the best job you can to maintain high standards," Ms Anderson said.
"I believe my job is to give staff, not just the clinical skills, but the skills to deal with all of the challenges that caring for patients with chronic kidney disease brings."
With 30% of renal patients from an indigenous background, another of Ms Anderson's priorities has been ensuring culturally appropriate services.
She consulted with indigenous patients and elders when establishing the new premises and commissioned indigenous artworks.
Ms Anderson has also proven her ability to cope in a crisis.
During the devastating Queensland floods last year, she ensured more than 100 renal dialysis clients in outlying areas were able to continue their treatment, organising evacuation of some and helicopter drops of equipment to others.
Ms Anderson won a $5000 ME Bank EveryDay Transaction Account and a $5000 education grant.