'Being a new mum is not an easy job': Plunket nurse retires after 37 years of dedicated service


Retiring Plunket nurse Robyn Aitken is looking forward to spending more quality time with her...
Retiring Plunket nurse Robyn Aitken is looking forward to spending more quality time with her grandchildren, including Lucas Aitken, 5. PHOTO: JOHN COSGROVE
Plunket nurse Robyn Aitken says it’s not uncommon for young mothers to pull out their own Plunket Books displaying her signature on the pages when she visits mums and babes.

Ms Aitken is retiring after 37 years of dedicated service to Plunket New Zealand in the North Canterbury area.

She is proud to have made a positive difference in people's lives.

‘‘Being a new mum is not an easy job, for parents now life has become so much more complicated.

‘‘With Plunket, we can sit down with the mum or the whanau, and even if it’s just one small piece of information or advice that makes their journey easier, then it is a win for everyone.’’

Ms Aitken was born in a small village in New South Wales, Australia.

Her family immigrated to Mid Canterbury and worked on dairy farms, before settling in Christchurch.

She qualified as a Registered Nurse in 1976, working at Christchurch and Princess Margaret Hospitals specalising in acute medicine and paediatrics.

She says the decision to become a Plunket Nurse came about when, as a single mum bringing up three kids on her own at Waikari, she decided to retrain when her youngest child had started school.

‘‘I wanted to do something in my community.’’

In 1989, she spent four months in Wellington, learning all about child and family health.

She says it was a big change for her, moving away from hospital work, but she wanted to work regular hours to be there for her children.

‘‘I have had so many wonderful opportunities for advancement in the Plunket service.

‘‘From leadership to professional development, training other nurses and later working in maternal and infant mental health.’’

She says over the years, the service has become more culturally aware and embraced diversity and equality.

‘‘I have loved working alongside young families in North Canterbury and I am now seeing my babies, babies,’’ she says.

‘‘It’s been a privilege to be part of Plunket. I believe we offer a good service that’s needed by young mothers.’’

Ms Aitken can recall many unpublishable stories about the funny situations the team she worked with, faced every day out in the community.

One of those team members was Hurunui Mayor Marie Black.

Mrs Black says Ms Aitken was her mentor when she started as a health care worker.

‘‘We’ve had so many fun adventures. I loved working alongside her as we met the needs of the community as a team.’’

Ms Aitken says child care has been her passion, but now she needs to slow down.

‘‘I want to be more relaxed, and with my girlfriend go out and explore New Zealand.’’

She also wants to be there for her own grandchildren.