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Celebrating nurses this International Nurses Day

Sunday, May 12, 2019

SRHR in Focus

By Rose Stewart, National Nurse Advisor  

When you come to a Family Planning clinic, there’s an 80 per cent chance that the person who will help you will be a nurse. That’s what we want to celebrate this International Nurses Day.

We like to refer to ourselves as a nurse-led organisation, to highlight that for most appointments at Family Planning clinics nurses work independently to assess, initiate diagnostic tests and in some cases prescribe treatments for certain conditions. While our nurses work closely with nurse practitioners and doctors in diagnosing and in the decision-making for the care of clients, our nurses have a lot of autonomy to conduct appointments on their own. Many of them are expert at inserting and removing copper and hormonal IUDs and implants

To qualify for this autonomy, our nurses need to be highly skilled in the area of sexual health. When a registered nurse comes to work for us, we provide them with extensive training so that they are able to offer a wide range of sexual health services; from contraceptive advice to STI testing, cervical screening and general sexual and reproductive health. We also ensure our nurses are kept up-to-date with the latest sexual health best practice advice.

To extend our nurses capabilities further we are working towards all our nurses gaining some level of authority to prescribe, so that they are able to prescribe medicines for certain conditions independently without needing approval from a doctor or nurse practitioner. With 23 out of 70 already at this level, we are rapidly approaching this target.

Gaining these types of competencies means our nurses today are in many ways able to provide what only our doctors were allowed to provide 20 years ago at Family Planning clinics. This reflects not only how far the opportunities available in nursing have come over the years, but it also recognises nurses’ capability to take on and manage these responsibilities.

Our nurses apply their specialised knowledge and skills to different cases every day while at the same time displaying an approachable and empathetic manner. They have a shared passion for working in the community; connecting with clients, listening and helping with sexual health questions and concerns.

From large city clinics to small rural clinics, outreach clinics at schools and even providing phone consultations, Family Planning nurses are reaching clients in many ways and making a difference in their communities.

Nursing ambitions

Our nurses come from a wide variety of backgrounds with different life experiences and a breadth of knowledge about sexual health.

We love that our nurses are so passionate about their field, and that some even decide to delve deeper and expand their knowledge through further study.

Here we talk to two of our nurses about their journeys to working at Family Planning and their decisions to expand their qualifications. 

Carol Smith

Carol Smith was in her 40s and working as a lab technician when she realised she wanted to take her life in a new direction. So, it wasn’t long before she found herself back at University, this time to study nursing. Carol’s aim was to work in community nursing and after a couple of years working as a practice nurse at GP clinics, she saw a job advertised at Family Planning and knew this was the place for her; knowing that it would suit her personality and her ability to connect with young people.

While working at Family Planning, Carol has been juggling postgraduate studies with the help of health workforce funding, to further her nursing qualifications and expand her knowledge of sexual and reproductive health.

Carol is now on the cusp of receiving her postgraduate diploma, and with the additional Family Planning courses she is completing, will soon be a Registered Nurse Prescriber. She relishes the autonomy she has in her role and working for a supportive organisation.

“Though it has been a lot of work, this journey has been a great confidence booster and I am really pleased about what I have learnt about myself and what I am capable of. I have had an awesome nurse adviser at Family Planning and the organisation has been very supportive. My post-grad studies have helped in everything with my profession – my knowledge, how I connect with my clients, and has expanded my skills to new areas such as teaching, which I have discovered great enjoyment in. I don’t know where this will lead, but I know I want to stay in the field of sexual health.”

Emma MacFarlane

Emma works in our Dunedin clinic and loves to learn, particularly when it comes to nursing, so much so that three years after completing her Master’s Degree in Nursing and qualifying as a Nurse Practitioner, she is now about to embark on a PhD. 

“I am a huge fan of education and I never want to stop learning. I like to take any opportunity to develop - there’s a great sense of achievement that goes with it.”

Emma has always had an interest in sexual health, and after a couple of years working in a hospital and as a practice nurse, a job advertised at Family Planning soon led to her taking up a nursing position at the organisation. It was in this role that Emma decided to pursue a Master’s Degree.

“Working at Family Planning you work so autonomously as a nurse, and studying allowed me to feel more confident about doing so.” 

Emma found the more she studied the more she realised she didn’t know and wanted to know. The support Emma received from key people at Family Planning, such as National Nurse Advisor Rose Stewart, was invaluable. She has also been pleased with how supportive the organisation has been of nurses’ capabilities, and finds that the role of Nurse Practitioner sits well within the way Family Planning clinics are run.

Emma plans to remain working in the field of sexual health, and with her PhD focussed on the Abortion Law Reform and how nurses can best provide care for early medical abortions in primary health care, she is sure to continue to contribute greatly to the sector.




Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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