Helping whānau work in partnership with ward nurses has won Northland nurse Gemma Watts a leadership award.

She was nominated by Northland District Health Board for the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s Open for Leadership Award for her work as a new nurse with patients and their whānau to improve experiences on the rehabilitation ward.

As a new graduate in 2013, Watts interviewed patients and families as part of a co-design project to identify issues and get feedback on how the ward team could work alongside patients.

“For example, we might say, ‘Tell me about how your day looks and what troubles you have at the moment’,” said Watts. “It’s about capturing the whole person and not just the reason they’re in hospital.”

She said issues raised included the restricted visiting hours and the doors to the ward being shut. Families also wanted to take part in providing patient care. That early work led to changes in the ward, including involving families and whānau in goal-setting meetings and encouraging families to work alongside the team providing care.

“Working in partnership with patients is built into my practice now,” said Watts. “Whānau are crucial in the transition for patients to get home.”

Health Quality & Safety Commission chief executive Dr Janice Wilson presented the award and said a co-design process with consumers and their families was an important part of providing high-quality care.

Watts’ clinical nurse manager Denise Watene said that despite being in only her first year of practice at the time, Watts demonstrated interpersonal skills beyond what was expected of a new nurse.

“She is able to listen empathetically, creating an environment where the patient and their family feel safe to give honest feedback.”

Watts was given a trophy by Dr Wilson and will be sponsored to attend a Commission event of her choice. The Open for Leadership Awards recognise and celebrate health professionals who demonstrate excellent practice, quality improvement and leadership skills.




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