Nurses Day 'hero': nursing in a caravan park

April 2015 Vol 15 (2)

Anne Sisam is a public health nurse hero working with vulnerable families in a caravan park in West Auckland to empower them to keep healthy.

Anne SisamAfter registering as a nurse 40 years ago, Anne Sisam has spent half of those years working in the West Auckland community, taking a particular interest in the needs of vulnerable children experiencing disparities in care.

Her current role involves working with people living in a caravan park in very challenging circumstances and who often present with illnesses typical of lower socio-economic communities. “Within this role, my focus is on prevention and intervention.

What I see as being most important is empowering and enabling people to take control of their own health,” says the Waitemata District Health Board nurse.

“That’s what I love about this job, as opposed to working in hospitals when people have already got conditions.

“It’s been such a good opportunity to change health outcomes for the better.”

Sisam has invested time getting to know the caravan park community so she is able to make a difference to the families living in a transient environment where poverty and ill health require careful assessment, negotiation and partnership.

“A lot of it is about building relationships and really looking after those relationships with that community.

“These people have limited resources and limited knowledge so it’s about supporting them with any health issues they may have, but also working with them to help them gain knowledge about their health and find realistic solutions.”

Jocelyn Peach, Waitemata DHB director of nursing says Sisam also demonstrates cultural awareness.

“She uses the Māori health model Te Whare Tapa Whā, working in partnership, encouraging participation of the community and different agencies as well as protecting the most vulnerable and their culture.

“We consider Anne a hero, meeting the needs of a vulnerable group in a challenging environment,” says Peach.

“The people we’re working with are an amazing bunch of resilient people and I do believe we’re making progress,” adds Sisam. 

“When people open their doors to you and they respect what you’re trying to do for them, you form really good relationships that help them see the whole healthcare system in a better light.”

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