Trauma nursing is Angela Russell’s life. She never thought it would be that way, in fact she thought teaching was her calling until she started taking an interest in her uncle’s medical background.
Some 27 years later, standing in Hawke’s Bay Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED), where she is also rostered on the flight nursing team to transfer unwell patients between hospitals, Angela’s outwardly warm personality and depth of knowledge shines. It’s easy to see why her patients and staff place so much trust in her, but there are many layers to this incredibly talented nurse and the reason for her forging a career in emergency medicine lays with a special patient and her parents during a flight-transfer between Tauranga Hospital and Auckland some 15 years ago.
“We had an 18-year-old girl who was just the loveliest person come in with leukaemia and a day later needed to be transferred to Auckland City Hospital for a bone marrow transplant. I’d been nursing her and I was tasked to transfer her to Auckland.
“She was just so happy in the helicopter knowing I was looking after her, she said ‘oh yay I’m so glad it’s you, you’re my favourite nurse’… then tragically half way there she suffered a cardiac arrest and despite doing everything we could for her, she died,” she says filling with emotion.
“To this day, when I’m up in the air flying over those ranges where it happened, I remember her, with some sadness. It was devastating and left a lasting impact on me, but it also made me realise how important the role of flight-nursing (FN) was and being the best support person you could possibly be for a patient. After that, I decided to forge out a career path that included flight nursing and be the best FN I could be. Here in Hawke’s Bay I’m rostered on for one day each week, as well as on-call,” she said.
A key member of Hawke’s Bay Hospital’s Patient at Risk (PAR) team, Angela says nursing provides great opportunities to continue to upskill on the job, particularly in the deteriorating patient. Her nursing expertise sees her spend time reviewing patient discharges in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit as well as patients of concern in the wards. She is also a mentor to EIT nursing students while on placement in ED, showing them the ropes and giving them the opportunity to understand the scope and depth of trauma nursing as a career path.
Angela is also a member of the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team, trained by our Government, to assist in natural disasters in NZ or overseas. Earlier this year she was deployed to Samoa to assist in the measles outbreak, based for two weeks in a small village caring for very ill babies and small children with measles.
“I absolutely love what I do, it's the people – they put their faith into you and sometimes you have to gain their trust within seconds – it’s that connection when they know you’ve got their back and will do everything you possibly can for them. It’s why I do what I do, seeing people get better, or keeping them comfortable in their last few hours.”