Few would have guessed the effect Dalreen Larkin would have at Whanganui Hospital when the mother of seven took the leap into studying nursing.
“I had a friend who was doing her training here and she had enough of me because I always talked the talk and I was too scared to walk the walk,” she said.
Larkin had always wanted to be a nurse but believed at 33 and with seven children she had missed her opportunity.
“One day we drove down to UCOL, she went inside grabbed an application form … she filled it out and I just signed it.”
It was anything but plain sailing from there.
“I wanted to quit the very first week. I just thought I can’t do this. I thought what the hell are molecules and compounds … if this is what nursing is about, I’m too dumb.”
Life also dealt some rough hands to Larkin. Since her journey into nursing began her mother, father and husband have all died.
But she never wavered in her drive to becoming the best nurse she could be.
This Saturday is International Nurses Day and Dalreen Larkin, with nurses from around the country, will be celebrated for the work they do.
Larkin is an enrolled nurse at Whanganui Hospital where staff describe her as a ‘treasure’.
Not long after she started working there she realised she was one of the few hospital staff who really understood Māori patients and their needs.
“I see me walking through the door, especially with Māori.
“Given my background as a little girl growing up … I didn’t like who I was. I didn’t like being a Māori.”
Larkin said her parents and grandparents’ generations had their Māori culture “smacked out of them”. “I was brought up like that.”
“It’s probably been the last 10 years where I’ve come to accept I’m brown and I’m proud. I love who I am.”
She said she would see Māori come into the hospital looking frightened and made a point to make them feel welcome.
That led to her quashing the rate of people not attending hearing appointments, often Māori children whose parents couldn’t get to the hospital.
Typically about 40 per cent of patients were not showing up to those appointments. Now everyone attends.
“I ring them a day before the appointment. I can pick up in slight pauses in their voices … that okay they’re not going to come – I’ll dig in a little bit more.”
Larkin said the hospital paid for taxis where parents were unable to make the journey to the hospital for financial reasons or if their car couldn’t fit all their children, often an obstacle for bigger families.
Despite balancing the pressure of supporting seven children with the rigours of the job, Larkin remains upbeat always.
“Being a nurse is not about me or whatever is going on in my life. As soon as you hit the door, that’s it – you leave all that behind. It’s about the person and the patient.”