SA Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards

Nurses fly high: Meet Keirstie and Barb

Date published

12 May 2023

Congratulations to RFDS employees Barb White, an outstanding winner, and Keirstie Bull, a remarkable finalist, at the recent 2023 SA Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards.

The Awards, hosted annually in May on International Nurses Day, recognise and celebrate the significant contribution nurses and midwives make to the healthcare outcomes of the broader South Australian community.

Barb White RFDS

Barb White, RFDS Flight Nurse Manager, Port Augusta Base
Winner, Excellence in Practice – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurse/Midwife (Mary Buckskin Award)

A nurse since 1973, Barb’s career has taken her across Australia from Far North Queensland to Tasmania, where she has honed her skills in rural and remote care.

After joining the RFDS more than two decades ago, Barb has become a respected leader with an unwavering passion for mentoring the next generation of flight nurses.

“One of the best parts of my role is watching nurses grow and go on to having amazing careers – just to be there to guide them through something, direct them into what study they need to do, or help them identify their strengths,” Barb said.

Barb’s award win acknowledges her pivotal role in growing culturally sensitive patient care – from forging strong relationships with community leaders to her work with the RFDS Reconciliation Action Plan Committee.

“The RFDS is listening to and advocating for Aboriginal patients. We’re learning from communities – and the more we learn, the more we realise we don’t know. A lot of the people we care for are very good at reading body language, so a lot of the time it’s not what you say, it’s what you do,” she said.

"A patient’s journey is not always about trauma – it can be returning to community after recovering or going back home to be on country for the last part of their life – and in providing that care, we’re the face they trust, the organisation they trust."

Keirstie Bull RFDS

Keirstie Bull, RFDS Retrieval Nursing Director
Finalist, Excellence in Leadership and Governance

Keirstie credits an early stint supporting aged care residents for inspiring her to pursue a career in nursing.

After spending more than 20 years in emergency departments, Keirstie joined the RFDS as Retrieval Nursing Director in 2020, where she leads a team of more than 70 nurses across South Australia and the Northern Territory, who care for around 25
airlifted patients every day.

“It was actually my grandmother who inspired me to start working in aged care and eventually become a nurse. Then, I did one of my placements in an emergency department and never looked back,” she said.

“People who work within the emergency and retrieval environment are a highly motivated group of individuals with the same goal, and this drives me to be the best leader I can be.”

Keirstie’s award nomination recognises her efforts in implementing new RFDS leadership and clinical governance frameworks and her work at the helm to ensure best-practice care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m amazed at what our nurses and midwives do each and every day,” she said. 

“I feel that the award nomination is definitely recognition of what our team has achieved at the RFDS in recent years – implementing a new vision, reflecting on our values and making vital changes to enhance outcomes for our patients.”

Find out more about working with the RFDS in SA/NT.