‘Vital role’ of nurses highlighted as day marked

Dunedin Hospital intensive care nurses among those marking International Nurses Day (from left)...
Dunedin Hospital intensive care nurses among those marking International Nurses Day (from left) Jo Baxter, Janet Andrews, Anna Doherty, Suzanne Locke, Carla Sanders and Jennilyn Mangahas. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The Covid-19 crisis has made this year’s International Nurses Day all the more significant, Southern District Health Board chief nursing and midwifery officer Jane Wilson said.

In the past few weeks the workforce Ms Wilson leads has nursed a patient through a high-profile death, retrained to handle a pandemic illness, and some have fallen ill themselves from Covid-19.

"Despite not being able to celebrate International Nurses Day today as we would have intended, Covid-19 has certainly highlighted more than ever the vital role that nurses play alongside their health worker colleagues," she said.

" You don’t have to look far, such as on social media, to see how nurses and other essential workers are being acknowledged universally."

As the scale of the Covid-19 crisis became apparent, many nurses come forward to volunteer, and nursing school lecturers and former nurses renewed practising certificates to help if needed.

Meanwhile, many nurses already at work in the SDHB rapidly developed new skills as they became infectious diseases nurses or helped out in Covid-19 testing.

"A significant number of nurses changed how they work overnight, quite literally," Ms Wilson said.

"Many deployed willingly to work in completely different environments, often outside their comfort zone to do whatever is needed.

"This has really strengthened our health workforce and relationships not just within the DHB but across the health system."

Dunedin Hospital nurses experienced the reality of Covid-19 first-hand, when Invercargill woman Jocelyn Finlayson died there after a long battle in the intensive care unit.

"Sadly one our patients passed away and our thoughts go out to her family and loved ones for their loss," Ms Wilson said.

"It certainly made the human cost of Covid-19 very real for our nursing staff and the wider ICU team."

Elsewhere, nurses at Lakes District Hospital were themselves in the Covid-19 spotlight when two tested positive to the disease, underlining the fact health staff such as nurses are at more risk than most of contracting the disease.

"Having any staff member contract the virus at work is never something we want to see," Ms Wilson said.

"It is the very reason that we need to do everything we can to protect our staff working on the frontline, ensuring they have access to the appropriate personal protective equipment and are trained in effective infection, prevention and control practices."

Away from the Covid-19 wards, other nurses and midwives had been busy keeping remaining functioning hospital wards open and working in the community as need be, Ms Wilson said.

"I am incredibly proud of the way everyone has responded to the pandemic and just got on with the job that is nursing."

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