When Annette Exon moved to Gisborne from Tauranga in mid-2018 she had yet to line up employment and knew barely a soul.
Three months later she had signed on as a practice nurse with Three Rivers Medical and, it being one of the largest centres in the country, it formed a ready-made community around her.
But while she is new to the region, Annette is no greenhorn in medical terms.
Having wanted to be a nurse since she was a child, by the time she was 17 she had left small-town New Zealand to train at Auckland's busy Middlemore Hospital.
And though she took a hiatus in the early 1980s to work a farm – doing everything from driving trucks to wrangling angora goats – she has spent the rest of her career developing her medical skills.
Annette first took a role in South Auckland as a Plunket nurse, but soon moved into intensive care nursing, developing skills that have seen her work in locations as far afield as Australia and England.
“Throughout my career, I've had a big focus on education and upskilling but the most important thing I learned was back in those intensive care days, when I developed a whanau focus for critical situations,” she says.
“That's the thing I have never forgotten . . . that both the patient and their family are in need of care and support.”
Annette has four decades of experience in fields from general, intensive and coronary care nursing to neonatal, cardiothoracic and surgical.
And she says she brings all that to her current position in primary care at Three Rivers, where she fulfils roles from running diabetes and heart clinics to carrying out cervical smears.
“My big passion is in helping people gain a good knowledge of their health issues,” she says. “Then they can really put themselves in the driver's seat in terms of looking after their own health.”