Relocating from the largest hospital in New Zealand to a facility with only 24 beds required some adjustments for new Vincent Ward charge nurse Gemma Atkinson, but she is very impressed by her fellow staff at Dunstan Hospital in Clyde.

Mrs Atkinson relocated in late November from Auckland City Hospital, where she spent 14 years after training at the nearby University of Auckland.

“I did 10 years in intensive care, then four years in the patient-at-risk team as a nurse specialist,” she said.

The patient-at-risk team liaised between the wards and the intensive care unit.

In addition to the sheer size difference, nursing on Vincent Ward is very medical because of the services it offers, with acute or surgical cases transferred to Dunedin.

Her husband, Darcy, and sons, George (4) and Oscar (22 months), did not join Mrs Atkinson until a month after she began her new job, as Mr Atkinson was finishing work in his custom-designed furniture business.

She said that month was tough as she hadn’t spent time away from her sons before.

The family is renting in Cromwell at present while waiting for their house in Auckland to sell, and will be looking to buy a house, preferably with some land attached, in the area.

Mr Atkinson has taken on child-care duties while the boys are young.

They had family in Queenstown, were both keen trampers, and had been interested in moving for some time, Mrs Atkinson said.

“I had my eye on Dunstan for a while but was waiting for a senior nursing position to become available.”

She was very impressed by the “extremely resourceful, extremely capable” nurses on Vincent Ward.

“The nurses are real generalists because it’s not just a ward – it’s a mini hospital,” she said.

Dunstan Hospital was fully staffed – a joy after City Hospital, which struggled to recruit staff – and was incredibly well set up for Covid-19. This was helped by the region’s “incredibly high vaccination rates”.

“We’re ready, we’re prepared.

“The recommendations change all the time and we change with them.”

Central Otago Health Services chief executive Kathryn de Luc said that Mrs Atkinson was a great asset to the organisation and brought significant clinical skills and experience.

“In particular she has had direct experience of managing Covid patients over the past few months.

“We have been able to make use of those experiences to further strengthen our preparations for what lies ahead with Omicron,” she said.

Many changes in nursing career