Jo Ward, Takapau Health Centre Registered Nurse Team Leader

Jo Ward has two words to sum up her initial switch from hospital nursing in England to rural nursing in Central Hawke’s Bay: “Absolutely terrifying”.

But 11 years on, the Registered Nurse Team Leader at Takapau Health Centre wouldn’t have it any other way.

Born in the UK, Jo previously nursed at Dorset County Hospital in South England county Dorset, but an opportunity for her Kiwi husband to be part of the family Kintail Honey business lured them to rural Hawke’s Bay.

“I really love being in the community,” says Jo, who is about to start the governance role as primary nurse representative for the Te Matau a Māui Health Trust.

“You get to know people in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise and you look after the whole whānau, which is fantastic.”

Jo says bravery, and the ability to work autonomously, are both essential traits to her role.

“At Takapau Health Centre, anyone can walk through the door, from someone having a heart attack, or with a finger cut off, or a child having an asthma attack,” she says.

“When I first started work here it absolutely terrified me.

“You are on your own – you are an hour away from a hospital so you have to be brave to work there but it makes for really interesting nursing.”

Recently graduating from the Registered Nurse Prescriber in Community Health programme, Jo says her ability to prescribe from a limited list of medications is making a huge difference for the low decile, high-need community. 

“There are lots of barriers to people being able to access health - people don’t have transport or employment so to make the 20-minute trip to the doctor is quite a big deal for people,” Jo says.

“This really helps ensure they can get quick, easy access healthcare when they need it.”

She says the support of her mentor and supervisor, the once-weekly visiting GP, made it possible.

“He has been a real supporter of nurses working at the top of their scope.”

While the benefits of nursing in a small community are infinite, Jo caveats it’s not a nine-to-five job.

“When my children were at the local primary school, I would be picking them up after work and I would have people running up to me saying: ‘Oh, can you just look at Johnny’s wound?’ or ringing me up during the weekend,” she says.

“People know you are the local nurse and they just want some reassurance and some advice sometimes, so that’s a big part of the job as well.”

Ensuring health equity for people who live rurally is what gets Jo out of bed each day.

“My passion is to make sure our rural communities get the health opportunities that people in cities do.”

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