Sunday, 28 February 2021


A most rewarding job

In addition to being Mother’s Day, last Sunday (12 May) was also International Nurses Day. On Thursday evening last week, more than 20 members of the Northern Coromandel Rural Nurses Forum celebrated International Nurses Day with a swim and dinner at The Lost Spring in Whitianga.

Many local businesses kindly sponsored gifts to the forum to thank the nurses of the northern Coromandel for their outstanding care to the local community.

This year, Whitianga nurse, Ashleigh Battaerd, was awarded the forum’s trophy for an outstanding contribution to the nursing profession. The award is presented annually at the forum’s International Nurses Day celebration. Ashleigh received the award for her commitment to the nursing profession not only as chairperson of the forum, but also for achieving nurse practitioner status, the highest clinical qualification a nurse can obtain.

Nursing is the largest health care profession in the world. Nurses do not only work to improve the lives of their patients, they may also hold management roles within health organisations and at government level, advocate for patients’ rights and provide health education. It is entirely appropriate for nurses to be recognised on a day dedicated just to them.

In the nursing profession, 12 May is an important date as it is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. Born in 1820, Florence is widely considered the founder of modern nursing. She came to prominence during the Crimean War of the 1850s.

Florence worked tirelessly to reform health care and opened the Nightingale School of Nursing in London in 1860. She was also instrumental in raising the status of nursing as a desirable occupation and increasing the educational standards for nurses.

The Northern Coromandel Rural Nurses Forum meet four times a year. It is an opportunity for fellow nurses to get to know each other, learn about the different areas of nursing they practice in and discuss how they can share their knowledge with one another to improve patient care. “The forum ensures that nurses from Tairua to Colville are not working in isolation,” says Ashleigh.

During a recent meeting of the forum, the Service Manager and Nursing Director of Thames Hospital attended as guest speakers. They discussed the health needs of people living in rural communities and how nurses can travel to patients, rather than the other way around.

The residents of the northern Coromandel are served by well child (Plunket) nurses, district nurses, public health nurses, mental health and addiction nurses, rest home nurses and practice nurses.

Well child nurses provide parenting advice and look after the health of infants, from birth through to four years of age. On the Coromandel, the well child nurses are contracted to Te Korowai, an organisation providing health and wellness services across the Hauraki and Thames-Coromandel Districts.

District Nurses manage care within the community, rather than in a hospital or private clinic. They visit patients in their homes and provide advice and care ranging from wound management to post accident care and palliative care. District nurses practising on the Coromandel are employed by the Waikato District Health Board (DHB).

Public Health Nurses provide health care to school aged children, as well as children with chronic conditions. They also provide immunisations and health education within schools. They are also employed by the Waikato DHB.

Mental health and addiction nurses assist those with moderate to acute mental health concerns and addiction issues. They focus on the recovery and management of symptoms, enabling patients to lead fulfilling lives. On the Coromandel, they are employed either by the Waikato DHB or Te Korowai.

Rest home nurses take care of older individuals who are living in rest homes as they find it difficult to live independently in their own homes. They are employed by the rest home operators.

Practice nurses typically work in general practice (doctor) surgeries. Their tasks involve the assessment of patient needs, health screening, administering immunisations and providing investigative procedures to determine further health care. Practice nurses are employed by the practices they work in.

A nursing degree is three-year qualification and can be obtained from either a university or polytechnic. Further study is available for those wanting to specialise in a particular area or looking at becoming a nurse practitioner.

According to the most recent statistics, only nine per cent of registered nurses in New Zealand are male. “Men can also thrive in, and bring a valuable skillset to, the nursing profession,” says Jannine Verner, a mental health and addiction nurse and member of the Northern Coromandel Rural Nurses Forum.

“Nursing opens so many career paths, with many nurses moving into senior management positions in various organisations,” says Jannine. “It’s an extremely rewarding career. It’s one of those jobs where you never stop learning.”

In recent years, a number of former Mercury Bay Area School students have decided to study nursing. Ashleigh and Jannine both hope that some of them will consider practising as rural nurses and come back to the northern Coromandel to work.

“With nursing, the patient always comes first, it’s not about the nurse or surrounding circumstances or politics,” says Ashleigh. “You have to put yourself and all other things aside and ensure you provide your patient with the best care possible.”

While rural nurses are not as well resourced as those in larger cities, the skillset available in the northern Coromandel is nothing short of astounding. “Our local nurses are innovative, qualified and dedicated to the highest level,” says Ashleigh.

“One of the things that attracted me to the nursing profession is that no day is ever the same. The best feeling is when you see a patient smile after you’ve done your best to improve their wellness. It’s a most rewarding job.”

Pictured: Some of the nurses who attended the Northern Coromandel Rural Nurses Forum’s International Nurses Day celebration at The Lost Spring in Whitianga on Thursday last week.


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