Notre Dame School of Nursing and Midwifery Lecturer wins prestigious International Sigma Award for innovative website

20 December 2019

As a Nursing Lecturer at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Darren Falconer has first-hand knowledge of the concerns final year Nursing students have in getting prepared for their clinical placement in an Emergency Department. Darren was awarded the prestigious Sigma Best Practice in Technology Award in November for his AreYouPreparED? Website initiative designed to support these students, the first Australian to win the international award.

Darren has been a qualified registered nurse since 1997 and university academic for the past 12 years. He has drawn from his extensive experience to develop the website, which features a wealth of valuable information for nursing students about to embark on an Emergency Department clinical placement.

“I realised there was a great deal of information out there, but it was all over the place, so it can be very difficult when a student wants to source relevant information,” Darren says.

“It was evident from my research that Nursing students experienced feelings of stress and apprehension prior to a clinical placement in this fast paced and unpredictable acute care clinical environment. Many of the students felt that they lacked the knowledge and clinical skills, had concerns about role uncertainty, fitting into the clinical team, feeling inadequate, being out of their depth and burdensome to clinical staff.

“They were also fearful of forgetting important information, making mistakes and inability to master unfamiliar technology. In particular, the students were concerned about their ability to recognise and respond effectively when caring for a deteriorating patient.”

Darren’s research was a mixed methods study, involving the distribution of approximately 750 surveys and the conduct of five focus groups to final year nursing students across three universities delivering a bachelor of nursing degree. Following data analysis, the findings were used in conjunction with his own clinical experience to inform the development of the website.

Working alongside The University of Western Australia’s, Dr Helene Metcalfe, Director of CTEC, Prof Jeff Hamdorf, and web developer, Prashant Umakanthan, Darren developed the AreYouPreparED? website over a year, launching it officially in May 2019.

Nursing students can now access learning material in one place. There is a variety of resources including YouTube videos, links to external websites, government documents, simulation and virtual learning experiences, readings and research articles.

The Sigma Awards recognise achievements and contributions in Nursing. The Award came as something of a surprise to Darren, who describes the experience of winning as “humbling”.

“I was extremely happy just to be nominated, especially as Sigma is an international organisation so I was competing against many others from across the world. It was so nice to be recognised for the hard work that has gone into this, but what was even better is that people are actually using the website.”

“It’s not necessarily about winning an award, it’s about creating something that has a positive impact with potential for longevity.”

Dean of Nursing and Midwifery, Prof Karen Clark-Burg says the award represents the hard work and innovative thinking that has gone into the development of the website.

Darren’s platform will be a fantastic asset for our Notre Dame nursing students and provides an invaluable resource for ongoing professional development.

The aim of Darren’s work is to help Nursing students feel better prepared for this acute care clinical placement, ideally ensuring they have a positive experience and decide to pursue a career in Emergency Department Nursing.

“With the various issues facing the newest generation of nurses coming into the workplace, we need to think outside the box to prepare students and equip them with the skills they need to be successful and effective as health care professionals.”

Visit the AreYouPreparED? website –

Media Contact: Breyon Gibbs : +61 8 9433 0569 |