Unrushed and down-to-earth guidance for patients transitioning from hospital to home with intravenous antibiotics helped Tracey Kunac win Waikato DHB’s Nurse of the Year.
Kunac is a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) with the district health board’s infectious diseases team and helps manage hospital patients’ transition to having intravenous antibiotics at home, under the supervision of a district nurse through the OPIVA (outpatient intravenous antibiotic) service.
She was nominated by her charge nurse manager Liz Gunn, who said Kunac helped navigate families and patients through the “big words that exist in the world of bacteria and antibiotics” during pre-discharge meetings.
“She will explain the laboratory results in appropriate language and discuss appropriate medication therapies and how these will be managed both as an inpatient and then as an outpatient,” said Gunn. “She gives her time willingly and patients are never made to feel rushed.”
Kunac trained as a nurse in the Waikato in the late 1980s and nursed around the country before returning in the year 2000 to take on firstly a nurse specialist role in internal medicine and then a district nurse role for five years before taking up her current role in 2015.
“That [district nursing] experience and those networks really help me do my job now,” said Kunac. “Even though I am based at Waikato Hospital, I know the reality of the community – what support and resources district nurses need from me so they can help the patient, and what Sunday afternoon in Ngāruawāhia looks like if something goes wrong and help is needed.”
Kunac said returning to study after 20 years of nursing had also helped her expand her practice and made her focus on the patient journey through the health system.
Her current CNS role was created by Dr Paul Huggan when the infectious diseases team was set up in 2015 by Dr Paul Huggan and Kunac said his vision, and smart planning, meant the CNS role could totally focus on patients.
The infectious diseases team supported Kunac’s nomination.
“Tracey takes it for granted that patients should receive care on their own terms, in an environment most suitable to their needs and in a manner which is truly respectful of their ideas, concerns and future expectations….” said their submission.
“Tracey leads by example with this approach and has elevated the practice of the ID team, as we seek to emulate and match her high standards.”