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Meet Plunket Nurse Maria - Making a Difference Series

Plunket nurses see 9 out of 10 of all New Zealand kids – visiting families in their homes, working with parents in clinics and helping out in local communities. From their very first visit they become a part of a family’s life. They provide support, they provide reassurance and they make the difference of a life times for NZ kids.

Our Plunket nurses are ordinary women who do extraordinary things every day for families across New Zealand. In this series of nurse profiles you will meet a handful of the amazing nurses who dedicate their time to ensuring our kiwi kids and families are supported.

Christchurch Plunket nurse Maria Browne has been working for Plunket for more than 11 years now. We ask her what started it all, what she loves about working for Plunket and about the difference Plunket makes in the first 1000 days.

What inspired you to become a Plunket nurse?

For many reasons. I wanted to be part of this exciting time in people’s lives; the birth of a new baby, and I wanted to work in the community. It is also nice to work with children that are well, that is, the job is wellness and health focused, rather than illness focused. I like that we do a lot of health education and promotion, which is a different focus than what many nurses do.

I also liked the challenges associated with the role. It is quite an autonomous role as you are working quite independently which can be challenging as a nurse, but it is a challenge that I enjoy.

I guess I was also attracted to the role as it is not shift work – which is great for the work life balance and my own family.

What does a day in your life look like?

The area I work in is relatively high needs so most of my work is in people’s homes, seeing people in their home environment. It is really a privilege and an honour to be able to visit people in their homes, a place they feel comfortable. I also see a number of families at our clinic which is located in the local shopping mall.

I also meet with other health professionals. I do have a bit of child protection work in my role too, which is our reality.

I am lucky here because I am working in an innovative environment. The clinic that I work in has moved into “the loft”, situated in one of the malls. It is the first of its type in Australasia as there are lots of different agencies that work in the mall and clients can just walk in to get support. We are co-located with Family Work Trust, Citizen’s Advice, Aviva (Family Violence Support), Community Law and more – it is a cool environment to be a part of. The idea is that professionals will work more closely together to meet the needs of the families which makes  it pretty much a one stop shop for families.

What do you like about working for Plunket?

I like the variety of work and meeting families in their own environment - on their terms, in their space. I really like that we get to know families well because you have that continuity because we don’t just do one off sessions. You can care for one baby in a family and then the next comes along, it’s pretty cool.

Being able to support people and help families to come up with their own solutions is awesome. I like to help families work out what is going to work out for their family, long gone are the days of Plunket nurses telling you what you must do.

The flexibility of the role is also nice and I have great colleagues.

What do you find challenging about working for Plunket?

We do see a reasonably large amount of family violence in the community. It is challenging to help families negotiate creating a safe environment for their families. There are challenges especially in the areas with less resources but you do feel like you make a difference.

Completing all the work can sometimes be hard too; for example our client notes but our new electronic record will make a difference with this – which is really exciting.

What is the best part about working in your community?

I think for me it is the challenge of working in an area where families are less well resourced. You have a community of families with a range of additional needs, and you feel like you have the opportunity to be making a difference and having an effect on child health outcomes. In this area we are the conduit to robust parenting advice and hopefully you can assist families with things like smoking cessation, safe sleeping and  healthy eating if they want it. It’s these tangible differences that you  feel that you have an opportunity to influence.

I have also been able to get to know the community well (individual families and people at preschools, medical practices etc). I have this real sense of belonging to the community, having worked in it for a long time, which is amazing.

I also love networking families in the community, connecting them together. An example of this is letting them know about “your growing baby” courses so they can network with other mums. A lot of families moved to Christchurch for the rebuild, including families from the North Island and overseas, and are now quite isolated from their past supports, so linking them with other families is quite huge and can make a big difference.

How do you think Plunket makes a difference in the first 1000 days of a child’s life?

As in the previous question I think we make a huge difference in the community. I also think this difference is made by working alongside parents to build their confidence in their own ability to protect and nurture their children.

What do you do when you are not being a Plunket nurse?

I’m really into long walks, this is how I get my exercise. We have been a bit lucky, our home had to be demolished after the quakes so we have a lovely new house and I have fresh enthusiasm for cooking in my new kitchen. My favorite place to escape to is Punakaiki on the West Coast. I also have lots of family time and socializing with friends.

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