Nine years ago Natasha Ashworth completed her Nurse Practitioner qualifications. The two-step process involved obtaining a Clinical Master’s degree and completing a year of supervised prescribing. She was looking forward to working at the cutting edge of clinical practice.
“I believe Nurse Practitioners are vital for our community with complex high needs. People often need more follow up and support and we often don’t have the necessary level of specialists on-site. Nurse Practitioners handle complex decision-making and prescribing and combine it with a nurse’s effective communication skills and a holistic view of care.”
Natasha’s longed for Nurse Practitioner role never eventuated – there are still only a few roles for Nurse Practitioners in Tairāwhiti.
“Then Hauora Tairāwhiti gave me the opportunity to work in long-term conditions leadership and management. What an amazing journey that has been. I have had so many opportunities to lead projects to improve the lives of people living with long-term conditions and to work with so many amazing people. It has been an incredibly satisfying 9 years.”
Natasha has returned to clinical practice working at Three Rivers Medical Centre, taking up the role of Nurse Practitioner intern looking after the aged care clients of Three Rivers, Te Whare Hapara and Puhi Kaiti Medical centres. She is taking over from Kylie Morresey and will be in the rest homes every day dealing with concerns, prescribing medication, training nurses and encouraging early intervention.
Natasha will be missed from Hauora Tairāwhiti especially for the number of projects she has delivered that have benefitted people living with long-term conditions.
An example of this is the sleep apnoea service. There are now around 600 Tairāwhiti people who are getting a good nights sleep. The cost of the service is no more than in 2008 when around 15 people were sent out of town for consultations.
More recently Natasha has been a key member of the team that has developed a locally based Cardiology Service. This is an amazing development for our region, says Natasha.
“Demand for cardiology service has dramatically increased since cardiologist Dr Gerry Devlin joined us in 2018. The whole team is focused on uncovering cardiac disease earlier, keeping people well for longer and most importantly avoiding people dying before their time.”
“Two Cardiac Research Nurses have now been added to the team. Having them on board means we can give people access to more advanced heart drugs and treatments in this region and monitor affects. An example is giving iron infusions for people with heart failure. We also have a cardiac Physiologist now who is looking after people with pacemakers. Most local people with pacemakers previously got support from Waikato.”
Natasha was also involved in developing the nurse-led flight team to get people who needed to be transferred to a tertiary hospital moved quickly and efficiently. “Previously transfers were contracted to Hawkes Bay and there were delays due to availability. Transfers now happen several times a day via two planes (pressurised and unpressurised) run by Air Gisborne. It is a great service and is supported by our locally based, specially trained flight nurses who accompany patients many who are very unwell.”
Building Tui te Ora, the long term condition unit at Gisborne Hospital was a highlight for Natasha. “Originally it was going to just be a diabetes unit. There were so many overlaps with other long-term conditions we could see that there was a need for something more even though there was only $100k seed money. In the end, the unit was built by the community – five Gisborne Registered Master Builders, organised by Master Builders president Kath Kitchen - donated time and equipment. It was an amazing community project and Tui te Ora became Tairāwhiti’s first nurse-led facility.
Since then a satellite dialysis unit has since been added to Tui te Ora. “People who needed haemodialysis every second day can stay living in Tairāwhiti and getting this treatment. Previously, families would have to move to a bigger centre so their loved one could get the dialysis they need to keep them alive.”
Last year the much anticipated Medical Day Unit was built on the side of the Tui Te Ora complex. “It is a specialist facility to deliver cancer treatment and medical day procedures (MDU). Over recent time the number of people receiving chemotherapy locally has increased dramatically, says Natasha. “The old area was very cramped not fit for purpose. We are now seeing about 250 people each month.”