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Award-winning nurse

WHEN you instigate an awards night for your profession, you don’t expect to be honoured yourself.

So Teresa Fisher, one of three nurses who started Nurses and Midwives of Tairawhiti, was taken by surprise when told she had been nominated for a NAMOT award.

“It is not meant for us, it’s meant for everybody else,” she told Jane Wilkie, who along with Natasha Ashworth, were the other two NAMOT founders.

Mrs Fisher, a regular sight at Cook Hospital and Gisborne Hospital, since the 1980s, took out the Service to Nursing Award at the fourth annual NAMOT awards earlier this year.

She acknowledged the award was a form of recognition from her peers.

The duty nurse manager was one of the last nurses to complete her training at Cook Hospital Nursing School in 1984.

“It’s what I wanted to do.’’

Nursing was in her blood.

Members of her family had been nurses in the past while her daughter is a student nurse at EIT Tairawhiti.

Mrs Fisher started nursing in Ward 6, a rehab and long-term ward for older patients at Cook Hospital, but quickly moved to the Intensive Care Unit/Coronary Care Unit (ICU/CCU).

She worked as a flight nurse in the late 1980s and still goes on the occasional flight, but remained in ICU/CCU nursing for about 25 years.

She is now a duty nurse manager.

Mrs Fisher describes the role of the senior nurse as the ‘‘go-to-person for everybody out of hours basically”.

“We manage the hospital, we manage the patient flow, we manage the staffing.

“We are the ones who look for replacement staff when someone is sick.”

She was called in to the hospital on Christmas Eve, 2016, after a bus careened 100 metres down a bank on the Whareratas, killing three people, and sending dozens of injured people to Gisborne Hospital.

Mrs Fisher said she called in extra staff to manage the acute patients.

“It went really well. We’ve had worse shifts — not in an emergency situation — just with low staffing, wrong skill mix and a high throughput of patients.

“That can be more stressful to manage because it’s ongoing.”

Mrs Fisher said such events could happen at any time.

It was an unpredictable environment, but such stressful times were now “more frequent than they were ever before’’.

“There’s just chronic understaffing and chronic underfunding.’’

Hauora Tairawhiti was not alone — hospitals were busy across the country.

“The patients who are in hospital, nationwide, are sicker than they used to be.

“There are a lot more people being taken care of in the community than ever before, and more services are being put in place.

“But when the needs of people exceed the capacity of community services, and they come into hospital, their needs are quite a lot higher.

“Patients are coming in sicker and they can’t stay as long.

“The turnover and throughput is too high, people are not staying in hospital as long as they probably should do.’’

Mrs Fisher said she had seen some patients return to hospital on the same day they had been discharged.

“Health boards have cut beds for the last 10 or 20 years or so, to the point where we don’t have enough anymore.’’

Mrs Fisher has served the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) for much of her career, including at a national level.

She describes herself as a strong advocate for patient safety and staff safety.

She currently serves on an NZNO national nurse managers committee, which mentors and coaches those who have recently moved into management roles.

It is a level of support she believes she needed at that stage of her own career.

The crucial issue in the health sector was chronic underfunding, she said.

“Nurses feel the deficits are due to both insufficient funding and management.

‘‘There is definitely not enough funding, but existing funding is not going into patient care as much as it should do.’’

RECOGNISED: Duty nurse manager Teresa Fisher, honoured by her peers at the NAMOT Awards, is dedicated to patient safety and staff safety. Mrs Fisher won the Services to Nursing Award. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell