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Testing station latest job for award-winning nurse Sarah Peters

Flagstaff Team

Leadership recognised… Sarah Peters’ award was announced on International Nursing Day

Hauraki nurse Sarah Peters has had her leadership recognised with a special award from Waitemata District Health Board (DHB).

The nurse manager, responsible for teams at both Shorecare’s Smales Farm and Northcross clinics, was tasked with setting up the North Shore’s first Covid-19 testing station at Northcross.

Peters and her team managed this in just 24 hours, opening on March 21. Hundreds of tests have since been conducted – the vast majority producing negative results, she notes.

Receiving the Nurse Leadership Award was made all the sweeter in being announced on International Nursing Day.

Peters is mindful of the toll the virus has taken on fellow nurses, particularly overseas, though there have been cases of infection on the front line here too.

“Nurses and healthcare workers have come out on top as superheroes in terms of putting others first,” she says. She credits team effort, from assistants through to doctors, in grappling with the challenges a pandemic brings.

Although her job these days is largely office-based, Peters speaks with the experience of having been a long-time emergency-department nurse. She moved to the privately run Shorecare Urgent Care from North Shore Hospital five-and-a-half years ago.

And in setting up the testing station, she donned personal protective equipment (PPE) to help administer tests in the busy first days. “It’s not just taking the swabs of course, there’s a lot of paperwork to be completed and reported back on.”

Asked about the flow of PPE, she said this was fine through Shorecare. “DHBs are a lot bigger institutions.”

Personal-safety fears weren’t an issue. Peters – whose husband, Nick Penfold, is in the Fire Service – said: “I think my kids [aged 20 and 17] were a little more worried than we were.” The household maintained social boundaries.

Working week-to-week during a public-health crisis meant adapting along the way. “Given the suddenness of Covid and how it’s evolved, it’s been well handled. But every time you go through something like this you do definitely learn from it.”

As a spin-off from the pandemic, the value of healthcare workers might be better recognised officially “including the next wage negotiations of all health workers.” Peters observed.

As for the public, she hopes they won’t be put off from seeking necessary medical care for fear clinics may be too risky or too busy to visit. They are not. “We’re doing everything we can to keep people safe.”

While clinics continued to see ACC cases such as DIY injuries during lockdown, unwell people might be suffering in silence at home. “It does concern me that people aren’t seeking medical help.”

Systems are in place to vet and stream patients, so visits are encouraged.

Peters’ award, one of several the DHB presents annually, encompassed work well beyond her cited “can do” attitude right from the start of dealing with Covid-19.

The operations leader of Auckland’s overall primary-care response, who nominated Peters for the award, also praised her enduring work as a nurse, including “support for new grads, excellent clinical acumen… and also her inclusiveness as a leader and team player.”

The testing station at Northcross was one of the first five community-based assessment centre (CBAC) to be set up in Auckland. From a peak of 14 centres across the city, the number has now dropped back to seven (including Northcross).

The Northcross model of taking bookings rather than accepting drive-ups, avoided long queues, while matching throughput elsewhere. The approach of Level 2 had sparked a late surge in testing.

Peters says she expects testing will continue for some time, possibly into next year. “It’s going to be around for a while yet.”

This article originally appeared in the 22 May 2020 edition of the Flagstaff. Read online here.

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