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Northern Coromandel nurses “get it together”

Northern Coromandel Rural Nurses Forum

Nurses with a vision and passion can make changes – and a perfect example of that are rural nurses in Northern Coromandel who have set up a forum to support each other in rural practice.

The genesis of a plan began in 2012 when Lyn Harris, who was new to rural nursing in the Northern Coromandel area, raised the questions: Who are my nursing colleagues? Where are they? What are their areas of expertise and how can we share our knowledge to improve the care and experience for our patients?

What followed was networking with local nurses and collaboration with Robin Steed, chief executive of the NZ Institute of Rural Health (NZIRH) who has a relentless passion for improving health and promoting networking opportunities for rural communities.

The NZIRH sponsored the first meeting of like-minded nurses in August 2012, and the inaugural committee meeting (photograph above) was attended by Ora Guptill (mental health nurse, Waikato DHB), Karen McKellar (Hauraki PHO), Gytha Lancaster (nurse adviser NZIRH), Margaret Briggs (public health nurse, Waikato DHB), Lyn Harris (practice nurse, Te Korowai Hauora O Hauraki Coromandel and meeting chair), Ashleigh Battaerd (practice nurse, The Doctors Whitianga), and Robyn Nicholas and Sonia Wirihana (practice nurses, Coromandel Family Health).

This group of nurses worked tirelessly on a format for a forum that would engage health professionals with a nursing focus within Northern Coromandel. A logo was developed by a local high school student.

The first Northern Coromandel Rural Nurses Forum (NCRNF) brought together 26 rural health professionals from the Coromandel, Colville and Whitianga areas.

Lyn Harris says: “These meeting are about networking and relationship building in a rural environment. It is a great way to meet your nursing colleagues, have opportunities for learning and have a voice for the rural sector.”

Each forum has a theme and the dedicated committee seeks sponsorship to cover the meals and prizes from generous local retailers and community as “rewards” on the night as recognition of the contribution made by nurses in the local communities. The forum keeps the communities informed on local and national health issues via articles in local papers. For the nurses, the forum platform offers an opportuntiy to have “a go” as a facilitator or to provide a presentation, to hear speakers and to gain valuable CNE hours certification without the additional hardship of travelling out of area for training.  .

Most meetings have been held at the Castle Rock Café in Te Rerenga, which has provided sponsorship and wonderful culinary delights. Unfortunately chef Andy had a serious car accident in 2014 so the forum arranged some general fundraising and continue to support where possible. “We encourage people to stop at Castle Rock Café to sample the delicious food and products. This is how rural communities support each other and rural nurses understand this,” Lyn says.

The forum has been improving and gaining support each year. Recently there have been more Whitianga nurses supporting the forum and as a result there will be a forum in Whitianga this year.

The aim is to have three forums per year (inclusive of an AGM) and an opportunity to celebrate International Nurses Day (12 May). The current chair of the Northern Coromandel Rural Nurses Forum is Ashleigh Battaerd.

At the most recent forum in December last year Michelle Tanner (immunisation advisor) gave a presentation that encouraged nurses to ensure that all children have the opportunity to be immunised, using a collaborative and empowering methodology.

The next forum in April 2015 is the annual AGM and the presentation focus is “Better Health for You”. The theme offers tools for nurses on the “how to empower the people” by asking meaningful questions about their health management. Nurses working in the Northern Coromandel are welcome to attend the forums. Please contact NCRN Secretary Margaret Briggs on: margaret.briggs@waikatodhb.health.nz

This article was contributed by Lyn Harris NZRN, Hauraki PHO

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