Rural nurses achievements celebrated

11 April 2016

Nurses from Great Barrier Island to Franz Josef – including three new Māori nurse practitioners ­– were honoured at this month's national rural health conference.

The achievements of the five rural nurses were celebrated at the Dunedin conference along with Great Barrier Island nurse Leonie Howie and her GP husband Dr Ivan Howie who were the joint winners of the annual Peter Snow Memorial Award for their "outstanding and innovative medical and nursing services" to the island's community.

Sharon Hansen, the chair of the Rural General Practice Network and a nurse practitioner, said she believed rural health had got to a good point where it was really happy to celebrate the work of nurses as much as doctors.

"There's always been a team approach in rural and so we can't celebrate the work of one profession above the other – they walk so much side by side."

Three new rural NPs –Theresa Ngamoki, Hine Loughlin and Pareake O’Brien – were honoured during the conference and Hansen says she says she was keen to honour their success and make visible nurses work, as while there were graduation ceremonies when nurses gained their degrees there wasn't a ceremony to mark vocational milestones like becoming an NP.

Also honoured was Gemma Hutton – the young rural nurse specialist based at Franz Josef and Central Otago diabetes nurse specialist Sharon Sandilands.

"Its just a joy to see what rural nurses are doing in the rural communities and how much of a difference they are making," said Hansen

New NPs

The three new nurse practitioners honoured are all working in the Bay of Plenty region.

Theresa Ngamoki (Te Whānau-ā-Apanui), who has had a longstanding focus on long-term conditions (LTC, qualified as an NP in primary health care (adult) in 2015 and. She currently works for the Western Bay of Plenty PHO in their health and wellness service including offering a marae-based walk-in GP/NP clinic with follow-up community or home visits.  Her focus is primarily adults with LTC but she sees patients across the life span and does 'whatever is required' including helping clients access housing and other social services.  Another part of her role is providing supervision to a group of nurse practitioner interns.

Hine Loughlin (Ngāti Tūwharetoa) and Pareake O'Brien (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou and Te Arawa) of Te Tohu o Te Ora o Ngāti Awa (one of the largest Māori health providers in the Eastern Bay of Plenty) also recently gained their nurse practitioner registration. Hine Loughlin said she felt privileged to have been successful in completing her NP registration in primary health care over the lifespan.

O'Brien's scope of practice is whānau ora across the life span which she described to the conference as being essentially primary health care delivered within a Māori framework. "My passion has always been to deliver healthcare to our Māori whānau," said O'Brien.  She said it had been a long journey to where she is as a nurse now after 34 years of nursing in both secondary and primary services.

Franz Josef and Central Otago nurses honoured

The new generation were also celebrated with Gemma Hutton, the 26-year-old Franz Josef nurse who last year won the NZNO Young Nurse of the Year Award, also honoured at the conference.

Working at Franz Josef since 2014 the young nurse said she loved working in rural health and saw herself working in a rural setting for some time yet. Whether other young nurses would follow suit she said was hard to say as the nursing students who came on placements to Franz Josef were enthusiastic but new graduates needed four or five years under their belt before they could nurse in remote rural settings like Franz. Hutton is busy studying at present for her postgraduate diploma.

The fifth nurse whose recent achievements were celebrated at the conference was Sharon Sandilands, who was one of the country's first prescribing diabetes nurse specialist.  She is based at Dunstan Hospital in Central Otago from which she runs outpatient clinics and also visits general practices across the region regularly and runs diabetes clinics in other centres.  Last year she was also involved in the launch of a paediatric diabetes telemedicine clinic that allows patients to attend a clinic in Dunstan with herself and a dietitian in attendance at the same time as having a video link with a paediatric endocrinologist in Dunedin.

Island couple win Peter Snow award

The conference heard that Ivan Howie (QSM) had served the Great Barrier Island since 1980 – initially commuting before settling on the island in 1983 and in 1985 marrying experienced primary health care nurse Leonie Howie (nee Taylor). In the early days the surgery was a caravan on the front lawn and the waiting room a small lounge in the couple's house. Hansen, who was a postgraduate student colleague of Leonie's, said the pair had been tireless in providing and developing services in the Great Barrier community and in return were well respected by the community they served.  She added that Leonie had a depth of knowledge about her community and had been responsive in providing services to meet the community's needs.  "And that's the whole thing about rural – it's not a one-size fits all." 

Leonie has a masters degree and is an advanced rural nurse specialist who has represented rural nursing on Ministry of Health working parties and the Primary Health Care Nurses Advisory Council and is currently part of the Auckland / Waitemata Rural Alliance Leadership Team.

 A further award presented at the conference was the patient-nominated rural general practice of the year, which was won by Martinborough Health Centre.




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