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Nicci proud to be at forefront of great rural care

Nicci MaherNicci Maher admits she fell into studying nursing because she was at a loss as to what to do after finishing high school.

It didn’t take her long to figure out she’d chosen the right path, however – and before she’d even graduated, she had her eyes set firmly on a rural and remote nursing career.

“I saw there was a graduate nurse position in Mitchell, western Queensland, which included suturing, cannulation, x-ray licensing and plaster care. This made nursing even more exciting for me, even if it meant moving six hours away from home,” Nicci said.

That was the beginning of a nursing career that has taken her to remote places throughout Queensland, including Thursday Island and Mornington Island, and which has incorporated roles such as pharmacy dispensing, x-ray, flu vaccinations, child health – and even cooking and cleaning.

All these rich experiences have also led her to her current role as Director of Nursing at Eidsvold Multipurpose Health Service (MPHS), where she has been for more than six years.

Nicci, 41, said without a doubt the best part of her job had always been the satisfaction she got from providing the best possible care and support to her patients and their loved ones.

“This could be through providing trauma care in the middle of a paddock two hours from the clinic, or helping someone to find care services to be able to stay at home – I always strive to make sure the care is appropriate and timely,” she said.

“I also really enjoy seeing nursing staff developing over their careers and getting excited about learning new skills and tackling challenging moments.

“In rural and remote nursing, something I love is that the community is part of the team. I’ve experienced some great moments with community members who have helped out in times of need.

“And I love that the team at each hospital, clinic or multipurpose health service works closely together with their patients first and foremost in their minds.”

That teamwork has been crucial as rural nurses, along with their counterparts across the world, have had to confront the challenges that have come with novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

While the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been low across rural Queensland, Wide Bay Hospital and Health facilities in the North Burnett nonetheless have had to make many preparations – particularly MPHSs, because of the extra precautions they have had to take to protect their aged care residents.

“COVID-19 certainly has thrown up some interesting challenges for the rural facilities, and during the first few days and weeks it was a struggle to grasp all of the changes – change fatigue and information overload can be a real issue during times like these,” Nicci said.

“But it’s also taught me that our healthcare team is more resilient and ready to approach a challenge than I thought possible.

“Eidsvold MPHS has some challenges with the infrastructure and layout of the facility. To ensure we can continue to provide safe and timely care to our residents and community, we’ve made significant changes to where our acute and aged care beds are and where access points are for the public, patients, residents and staff.

“I’ve also been tasked with reviewing our COVID-19 care pathways and adapting them for rural use, developing access plans for each of our rural facilities, and working with our emergency and intensive care nurse educators to help upskill and provide current information and training to our teams.

“So a lot of time and effort has gone into making sure we’re ready if, for instance, the current good containment of the virus changes. I want people to know we’re doing everything possible to ensure our community stays safe.”

As International Nurses Day approaches on May 12, Nicci said the 2020 theme of “Nursing the world to health” – focusing on the true value of nurses to the people of the world – resonated with her more than ever.

“I can’t emphasise enough how valuable nurses are to our community,” she said.

“Nurses are at the forefront of patient care. They’re often the first healthcare professional someone meets when presenting to hospital and the last one they see when they’re discharged.

“In between, nursing staff are assessing and providing care and support – not only to the patient but also to their family and carers – to ensure their hospital admission, discharge and follow-up is planned appropriately, and that our care meets their needs and respects their beliefs.

“Nurses educate patients, families and carers, and this is a really important role in developing healthy communities.

“Nurses are nurturing – we laugh with patients and we cry with patients. We comfort through grief and pain, for the patient and their family.

“We also play a key role in identifying community needs and pushing for positive change.”

Reflecting on her 21-year nursing career so far, Nicci said she was excited about the future of rural and remote health care.

“The newly established Office of Rural and Remote Health is an opportunity for clinicians, consumers, clinical networks and industry to come together and develop a strategy for improved rural and remote health outcomes,” she said.

“I work in one of the best parts of the world and I’m proud of the care we provide. And I’m excited that I can be part of the effort to keep enhancing that care into the future.”

Last updated: 12 May 2020