Nursing in rural settings different type of challenge

By Laurilee McMichael

Taupō Hospital Inpatient Unit's new clinical nurse manager Alice Street.
Taupō Hospital Inpatient Unit's new clinical nurse manager Alice Street.

The new clinical nurse manager of Taupo Hospital's Inpatient Unit has extensive experience of health in rural settings, both in Australia and New Zealand.

Alice Street trained as a nurse in London in the 1990s and at the end of the decade emigrated to New Zealand. She ended up in Rawene Hospital in the Far North where she met her husband, Chris McSkimming, also a nurse, and fell in love with rural health.

"You get to know your patients as members of your community and can see improvements in their health care. I enjoy the pride that comes from the staff that work in rural health, and the ownership and loyalty they feel towards their hospital and their health service," said Alice.

She says that working for rural hospitals is like being with family. Having lived away from her family in the United Kingdom for many years, the staff relationships that are made within rural hospitals is often like family.

She says people who work in rural health have different challenges from those in large metropolitan centres and one of the key skills is working out how to best use the resources available.

"In a perfect world you would have everyone being able to access everything but you just can't and people don't want to go far from home so we have to weigh up what people want, what we can deliver, what needs can be met and how we can keep people home and well. You're required to be a jack of all trades."

From Rawene, Alice and Chris, who is now a full-time artist, moved to Australia where they worked in remote aboriginal communities first in Western Australia and later moved to another larger Aboriginal community with a small hospital on Palm Island, a small island off the coast of North Queensland.

This was a similar size to Taupo and Alice was clinical nurse manager and then acting director of nursing.

Next stop was Ingham, a small rural district hospital in North Queensland, and then to Ballina in Northern New South Wales. This was the largest centre she had worked at for some years, with the Ballina District Hospital having two wards, a day dialysis unit, a small theatre and emergency department.

It was family that brought Alice and Chris back to New Zealand. Chris is originally from a large South Island family but the couple's youngest daughter and two grandchildren are living in Tauranga.

Alice holds post graduate certificates in health management and health system finance as well as special papers in rural health. She says the title 'clinical nurse manager' is similar to the old role of charge nurse.

Taupo Hospital's inpatient unit normally has about 10 beds, rising to 15 during the winter.

The colder temperatures in Taupo might take some getting used to after Australia, with Alice finding it very cold when she arrived last month. But she says the redeveloped Taupo Hospital has made a lovely first impression, looking lovely and clean and well designed.

"The friendliness and welcoming nature of all staff in both Taupo and Rotorua has been great. I look forward to settling in."

- Rotorua Weekender

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