Nurse practitioner Lucy McLaren [centre] says the work of a nurse can get taken for granted, but mainly because of people’s lack of knowledge about the role. PHOTO/FILE
It’s been said a nurse is like a soldier, always on the frontline fighting to help people’s lives. JOHN LAZO-RON reports.
In the unparalleled and extraordinary public health emergency in which we find ourselves today, across New Zealand and the world, one you’ll always find first on the frontline battle against rising health challenges is a nurse.
Nurses are staffing our clinics and hospital wards, and in most regions like Wairarapa, they are doing so until they drop.
One nurse who has been on that frontline in this region is Lucy McLaren.
McLaren has now been a Nurse Practitioner for 33 years, after first training for the role in 1988.
With McLaren’s dad being a doctor and mum being a nurse, you would think she was simply following in her family’s footsteps, but she said it wasn’t a conscious decision, something she ended up doing.
The 51-year-old has now been on Wairarapa Hospital’s Emergency Department team for seven years, responding to dire and unprecedented health crises such as covid-19.
Asked f she thought nurses were like soldiers at times, fighting chaotic battles, she said there were chaotic times nurses had to deal with, but that they also had the ability to bring a peaceful presence to any situation.
“This place [hospital] can get so busy and chaotic, but we are nurses, and there is a calm we bring to most situations,” she said.
“One of our biggest roles is helping people navigate this system and get better, or a plan to get better.”
“There are some patient situations which will sit with me forever, and they make up who I am as a nurse and how I approach the next situation. It is constant learning and recognition of patterns or illnesses, and not knowing what is happening to the patient and trying to come up with the answer that can be really difficult. But as we work as a team, there is always someone to discuss situations with.”
Although McLaren said she loved being a nurse, the profession had taken its toll on her in different ways over the years.
“Sometimes, the shift work can be tough,” she said.
“Missing family stuff like birthdays, social gatherings, kids sport, is a constant. My kids are really used to me working evenings and weekends and not being there. My husband picks up a huge amount.
“Being awake all night and then trying to sleep during the day can be really hard and takes its toll physically.”
In the wake of the nurse’s strikes, McLaren said the work of a nurse could get taken for granted, but mainly because of people’s lack of knowledge about the role.
“Mostly, people don’t understand the role of the nurse and how much we are involved in most parts of a person’s journey through the health system,” she said.
“In ED, the place can look calm but is really busy. A sick person can take most of the team out of the department, and people get frustrated thinking we are not doing more. But mostly, that is because people don’t understand and are scared for themselves.”
Despite the chaos, McLaren loved being right there.
“I love being in the middle of a chaotic day and working with the rest of the team to get through it, or seeing a patient leave with a smile and knowing they will get better,” she said.
“I love working as part of a great team, the quiet times with patients where you make a real connection with them as people.”
McLaren said many had helped her along her journey as a nurse, teaching her valuables lessons that she had brought on in her role.
“My preceptor at my first GP job in Wellington, Wendy, taught me to always put the person first no matter who they are,” she said.
“My Director of Nursing, Helen, helped me to understand Maori disparities in health and how I can help. I thank all my team for sharing their knowledge with me, the wealth of knowledge here in ED is exceptional.”
All she wants to do now is learn more and more and see nursing reach its very best.
“It has so much more to give and need to realise its full potential. The nurse practitioner role is a great example of nursing adapting and helping the health system to deliver.”