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Acknowledging the significant contribution of nurses

Press release from The Immunisation Advisory Centre

12th May 2017

May 12th is International Nurses Day. The Immunisation Advisory Centre wants to take this opportunity to acknowledge the significant contribution that nurses from all walks of life make to both patients and our communities, and thank them for all their hard work over the years.

The commitment of primary care nurses to immunisation is one fantastic example of their contribution that is worth celebrating. These nurses have played a key role in turning around our immunisation coverage in the last couple of decades from 56% of New Zealand infants being fully immunised in 1991 to over 93% as of March 2017 (for children aged 24 months). Furthermore traditional equity gaps in immunisation coverage (such as those for children living in poverty) have been closed as our nurses are focused on not leaving any children behind.

This is the kind of turnaround that has a truly profound impact on our quality of life. Reducing the spread of preventable diseases saves lives, reduces disabilities, keep children at school and families healthy. We see far less children in hospital with diarrhoea and vomiting from gastroenteritis, less meningitis, less pneumonia and we are on the verge of eliminating measles from NZ. The social and financial contribution is immeasurable.

For nurses at the coal face of primary care, it can at times be a challenging achievement to make. It needs their full commitment to ensure ease of access to services, make the vaccination event a positive experience, and that parents and caregivers understand the role of immunisation, the risks of these diseases and the actual side effects of vaccines.

Nurse Rita Muller has followed her passion for improving the lives of others. It is a journey that has seen her not only migrate to New Zealand from South Africa, but also move from being a front line nurse to an educator and supporter of the nursing workforce.

Rita comments that “Our ability as healthcare professionals to achieve the best outcomes for our patients depends upon our own knowledge and passion for children’s health. Parents and caregivers make their own decision about immunisation, and it is our job to guide them through this decision. To do this we not only need to know the answers, but know how to make that relevant for the family we have in front of us”.

Rita now works with the Immunisation Advisory Centre, based at the University of Auckland. “I love having the opportunity to work with my nursing colleagues and see how the work I do makes them more confident to take their knowledge and engage with their community”.

Lisbeth Alley, a Regional Immunisation Advisor has also followed her own journey from primary care nursing to supporting the broader health workforce in their understanding of immunisation. She says, “Every day I work with dedicated nurses and other health professionals who want to make a difference. Let’s celebrate the pivotal role that New Zealand primary care nurses play in preventing disease and promoting the health of New Zealand children”.

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