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"Go-to' nurse helps make life better

1 October 2019
Rachel Ferkins' success as “nurse navigator” has been acknowledged when she won the Pinnacle Midlands Health Network gong for Primary Healthcare Nursing at this year's Nurses and Midwives of Tairawhiti (NAMOT) awards.
Rachel Ferkins 1 small size
Rachel Ferkins, winner of this year's Pinnacle Midlands Health Network award for Primary Healthcare Nursing at this year's Nurses and Midwives of Tairawhiti (NAMOT) awards.

IN recent years Rachel Ferkins has spent her weekends supporting her two teen sons as they competed at high-level kayaking regatta, while devoting her weeks to supporting clients with multiple or chronic illnesses. And, she says, the two are not mutually exclusive.

“At the end of the day it's about having the best health you can to live the best life you can,” says Rachel. “That means different things for different people so, for me, it's about achieving health equity.”

After 28 years in nursing, Rachel in 2017 joined the team at Three Rivers Medical to run the long-term conditions programme established by Three Rivers and overseen by co-owner/director Dr Tom James.

And her success as “nurse navigator” has been acknowledged when she won the Pinnacle Midlands Health Network gong for Primary Healthcare Nursing at this year's Nurses and Midwives of Tairawhiti (NAMOT) awards.

“It was amazing to be nominated – even more so to win – but the most special thing is having your work acknowledged by your colleagues and the wider profession,” she says.

“However, we do get 'wins' every day: every time we see someone living an easier life because of the programme, that's a success.”

Working with referred patients with long-term medical conditions, Rachel offers a wrap-around service that can range from assisting them in navigating a sometimes complex health system, to helping them manage medication.

“Keeping track of everything that needs to be done and managing it yourself can be totally overwhelming, but if you don't the consequences can be severe, so it's our role to make sure that doesn't happen.”

Rachel's role at Three Rivers is the culmination of a career in nursing that started when, at the age of 17, she set off to Napier to undertake her training.

“As a teenager I had worked in rest homes and that whole idea of helping people, of caring, really appealed to me.”

Over the following years she worked mainly at Gisborne Hospital across a range of departments, her last role being as out-patients co-ordinator.

“That was great training for being a nurse navigator in that your entire focus is on helping people who are based in their own homes to achieve a better quality of life,” she says. “That was really rewarding, and it's what I enjoy doing today.”

That's not to say she is resting on her laurels . . . Rachel sees on-going learning as vital to effective healthcare and, having recently finished post-graduate pharmacology studies, now has her sights set on completing a Diploma in Health Science.

She's also big on working with a patient's entire whanau and, according to Pinnacle Midlands Health Network nurse co-ordinator Jade Robertson, that contributed to her selection as an award-winner.

“Rachel is the go-to nurse for a lot of patients at 3 Rivers, where she ensures the patients receive the support and services needed to manage their long-term condition,” Jade said on awards night.

“She has taken the role of nurse navigator competently and confidently, paving the way and setting an example for other nurses within primary care settings.”

As part of her award Rachel received a pounamu, which she says has particular meaning.

When she left Gisborne Hospital one of the doctors presented her with a pounamu pendant that had been blessed by the staff.

“It was very special to me but somehow I managed to lose it while out visiting patients,” she says.

“So in a way this is like a replacement. It's like it was meant to be.”