Hauora Tairāwhiti celebrates first 'homegrown' Nurse Practitioner

16 October 2018

Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist Lynne Gray is Hauora Tairāwhiti’s first ‘homegrown’ Nurse Practitioner.

The Nurse Practitioner role is a highly-skilled nursing position and has the legal authority to practice beyond the level of a Registered Nurse, including prescribing rights.  Lynne Gray is New Zealand’s first Oncology Nurse Practitioner in a secondary satellite centre.

Currently, people who are receiving treatment for cancer are seen by specialist physicians from Waikato who fly in to hold monthly clinics. According to Tui te Ora Nurse Manager Natasha Ashworth, “Lynne’s appointment is key to ensuring Tairāwhiti has better and quicker access to expert oncology assessment and treatment. As a Nurse Practitioner with full prescribing rights, Lynne can ensure that people have all the medication they need to keep them safe and comfortable. She is also able to order tests and investigations to monitor response to treatment or progress.”

“Lynne’s achievement is incredible and will bring so many advantages for cancer care in our community, especially for Kahikatea – Medical Day Unit. The team in Kahikatea now has someone on-site to talk through complex issues that arise and prescribing medication. Prescribing in oncology is highly specialised and we often have to ask our new house officers to perform this task. They have little or no oncology experience so are not able to advise the nurses if there are any concerns. Lynne however, is an expert in the area and will be carrying out much of this prescribing with the nursing team. This is so much safer and allows for their development.”

Lynne admits that she couldn’t have made it happen on her own. “None of this has happened in isolation from my colleagues, nursing, medical and otherwise. From my point of view, this has been a continuum, many years in the making. It is a mighty relief and a significant step getting over the Nursing Council Nurse Practitioner line. So it’s not the end – it’s the beginning and I am a novice again which is a bit daunting. In some ways, nothing will change but I will have a far greater arsenal with which to support our community adapting to their cancer diagnosis, disease and treatment.”

“Nationally I believe it is the first of the Nurse Practitioner oncology roles in a secondary satellite centre. I intend on proving it is a valuable, workable, replicable model of care that will support and enhance the level of care the team can provide locally. I believe this model can future-proof the service, grow our specialist nursing resource and mitigate the impact of projected increases in demand on our visiting specialist resource.”

Tairāwhiti has only two other nurses working as Nurse Practitioners, which are in Aged Care and at St John. According to Ms Ashworth, “The investment in our nursing workforce is worth it”.

“Over the last two years, we have been actively working on a plan to initiate Nurse Practitioner roles in areas of high need or where equity issues need to be addressed. Our oncology service was one of the areas identified as needing additional clinical support.”