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Local nurse named ‘neonatal nurse of the year’

Wellington neonatal nurse practitioner Paula Dellabarca has spent her career helping some of the region’s smallest and most vulnerable patients and their families.

That has seen her named the Neonatal Nurses College Aotearoa’s ‘Neonatal nurse of the year’, which recognises a nurse’s contribution to their organisation and the wider community.

“I wouldn’t have this award if it were not for everyone here, so I feel like it reflects on the whole unit,” she said.

“The consultants here have either mentored me or got me through academic papers, my nurse manager flies the flag for nurse education, and if it weren’t for the hard work of the nurses in the unit I would have sunk a long time ago.”

Originally from the UK, Paula joined Wellington’s NICU in 1999 as a registered nurse. She has since become the NICU’s first New Zealand-trained nurse practitioner, helped implement pulse oximetry screening – testing oxygen levels in the blood – to identify congenital heart problems, and completed an audit of the past decade’s outcomes for pre-term babies born at 23-24 weeks.

Paula has also been a member of the Neonatal Nurses College Aotearoa, and the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand sub-committee for policy development. She is also part of a newborn clinical resource group, and works with the Ministry of Health on service specifications for NICUs.

With so much on the go, it is no surprise that Wellington NICU nurse manager Rosemary Escott describes Paula as a high achiever.



“Paula is very highly thought of by her peers and – both within our unit and further afield – there is the greatest respect for Paula in how she conducts herself both professionally as a practitioner and personally,” Rosemary said.

“She is a very high achiever, and has shown this in her endless drive and dedication in her studies and leading the way as a neonatal nurse practitioner. She is a well-deserved recipient of this award.”


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