A day in the life... OF A FAMILY PLANNING NURSE

1 July 2012

Sue Schroder walks to work knowing her twin pre-schoolers are in her husband's good hands.  She then sets to work with the mostly young women clientele providing information and support on contraception to STIs...

NAME: Sue Schroder

JOB TITLE: Family Planning Nurse

LOCATION: Gisborne

7.00 AM WAKE

There’s no need to set an alarm clock in our house – every morning at 7am, our four-and-a-half-year-old twin boys (Tom and Myles) come into our room needing to go to the toilet. Our day has begun.

Doug is a house-husband, so he’s in charge of most of the domestic stuff. He and the boys eat their breakfast at the breakfast bar while I get ready (the boys are always keen to help me finish my toast).

One of the reasons we shifted to Gisborne five years ago was for the lifestyle, which includes regular hours. It’s full-on with the boys, and Doug and I want to make the most of this time while they’re still small. One of the other bonuses is being able to walk to work each day. Most of the time, I’m able to do that with the sun on my back and arrive at work and at home with a clear head.


I always grab a drink when I arrive at the clinic – sometimes a coffee, sometimes a cold drink.

The first thing I do is turn on the computer so I can check the Medtech system to see if client test results have come back. These could be STI checks or smear results. Client confidentiality is vital. Some will be happy to get results by text message, others prefer a phone call, and others will pop back into the clinic to get the results in person. When we text, we’re still very understated – the text will say something like, “It’s Sue at the clinic. Can you call me?”

I have been nursing for 20 years, including in primary health, and have been working at Family Planning since April. The training was thorough, and I enjoy the ability to work independently providing information to clients about their contraceptive choices and sexuality. The majority of our clients are young woman aged between 14 and 22 years, but we also see male clients and some more mature clients.

There is definitely a need for our service in Gisborne, especially with the grip gonorrhoea has in the area at present. We lead New Zealand with our current STI stats and are very busy dealing with it.

I am busy to lunch time seeing clients for appointments lasting 10-20 minutes. I work under Family Planning Standing Orders supplying contraceptive pill repeats and depo provera injections. I can also start women on the pill after doing a comprehensive assessment to make sure it is OK for them and the best option among the contraceptive choices. If there’s any change with a client that could cause increased risk on the pill (e.g. if they’ve started to smoke, if they’ve put on weight), then I would call either Family Planning’s national on-call duty doctor or talk with my colleague Dr Helen Russell here at Gisborne Clinic.


We shut the clinic for half an hour over lunch time so that we can all get a break. There’s a really nice coffee shop next door, and sometimes, we’ll head there for a coffee. Usually, though, everyone brings their own lunch and we sit in the tea room.


The afternoon is full-on with clients from 12.30 pm until 5 pm, with just a ten minute break to catch up on notes.

I do lots of depo provera injections. It’s really popular because the clients only have to come in once every 12 weeks and many women won’t get a period while they’re using it. Jadelle implants are really popular, too, particularly since they became free. Our doctor here is trained to insert them and some Family Planning nurses are doing them, too. That training is definitely on my radar.


We have a drop-in clinic between 1.30 pm and 2.30 pm, where clients can come in without an appointment. That’s often when people will come back in for test results. We do a lot of emergency contraceptive pill supply as well, and we always ask if they can come back in three weeks so we can do a pregnancy test and talk with them about ongoing contraception or STI risks.

We use Medtech set up for Family Planning, with three templates to record personal and family medical history, gynaecological history, family violence screening, and measurements such as BMI. We have some useful keywords. For example, if someone comes to see us for a pregnancy test, I’ll enter the keyword for that, which will then prompt the questions that I need to be asking – date of last menstrual period, contraception, all those kinds of things. It’s a really comprehensive way of making sure that we collect all the relevant information.


Once we’ve seen the last client for the day, I tidy up and make sure all the notes are finished. Then it’s a walk home – which is a great way to wind down at the end of the day. If I’ve worked a Saturday clinic, we’ll often take the boys off to the beach when I get home from work. If it’s a 5pm finish, then I’m off home to the dinner, bed, and bath routine.


The boys are real creatures of habit. They have dinner at 5.30 pm, then bath and to bed by 7 pm (they sleep for 12 hours which is great).


Some time to ourselves – usually, relax and chat about our day, discuss what is coming up with the family, enjoy a wine together, and a leisurely evening meal (we love to watch Coronation Street together).