Gemma Hutton, a rural nurse specialist based at Franz Josef, was presented her award at an awards dinner in Wellington during the New Zealand Nursing Organisation’s annual conference. The award is for a nurse under 30 who goes the extra mile and demonstrates exceptional commitment to patients and their profession.

Gemma Hutton

Hutton said she has been Franz Josef’s sole nurse since February 2014 offering health services to the isolated South Westland region with the support of a visiting GP one or two days a week and nurses in nearby communities.

Being the oncall 24 hours a day means she has to be ready to for “whatever lands on her doorstep” including being called out to treat people injured in car accidents, glacier incidents or flown in from offshore fishing boats.

She has also set up an exercise and healthy lifestyle group for Franz Josef residents and, after working with a lot of new parents, she has organised a mothers and babies group to bring them altogether.

Hutton said the role was massive but very exciting and diverse and her job was made easier by having a “really supportive community”, including working alongside a very supportive St Johns volunteer team.

NZNO spokesperson, Dr Jill Clendon described Gemma as “a nurse with the X factor”. “She see the needs in the community, and gets to work straight away putting goals in place and achieving positive health outcomes.”

“I echo Gemma’s nominator when I say I believe Gemma to be an excellent role model for young nurses entering the profession. Nursing is in good hands.” Clendon said.

Hutton said had been very surprised and humbled to have been nominated and win the award. “Being acknowledged for doing something I love feels awesome.”

She initially trained at Otago Polytechnic and spent her new graduate year in Dunedin Hospital’s emergency department before taking on a private nursing job in Central Otago and then working in a small hospital in the Lakes District.

Hutton is close to completing her postgraduate certificate in nursing and in the long-term hopes to complete a masters degree and maybe looking at becoming a nurse practitioner.

Coming from a rural background she said she always intended to move into rural nursing at some stage and spent some time in Haast as a child. Hutton said rural nursing would appeal to young nurses who want variety in their work, are ready to cope with being on-call and want to live in a rural community. She says she has met some really cool people in Franz Josef and finds plenty to do in her free time.


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