Ann Wheat, Nurse Manager
The end of the year is fast approaching and again there have been difficult times to navigate during this year, with lockdowns and working from home. The last 12 weeks has been particularly challenging, with living alone and losing a much-loved pet during this time. The year started well with school visits, home visits, COPD groups, education sessions undertaken at Auckland University and community groups such as Green Prescription and Community Pulmonary Rehab sessions. Then in March and April was the first short lockdown for the year where we had to work from home, but as this was short it was easily navigated. Continuing to learn how to use technology for education was rewarding and something that I thought I would never be able to do. This also helped with the challenge of putting a new patient data system together with one other nurse and the computer team has been a fulfilling one throughout the whole year.
We then were able to get back to normal again, going around and about in Auckland, seeing clients, students and groups in their homes, schools, and community settings. This is always very rewarding when one is able to help educate and then see the improvements people can make with their asthma management. It is a privilege to go into their homes to be able to do this.
The last 12 weeks, education has been completed by telephone, zoom meetings, teams’ meetings, and WhatsApp. At least with some of these, it is great to be able to see the clients and be able to demonstrate the techniques needed to improve their management. I am sure, that we will be continuing with this method of education for some time yet.
Looking to 2022, it will be great to hopefully be able to do face to face education again, to meet with my COPD group again (have kept in touch with them all by telephone) and do the group education sessions in person. At present, one can only be positive when looking to the future. It will certainly be a very different world that we live in.
Finally, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and New Year. And may 2022 be a better year than 2021.
KATIE FAAIUASO, ASTHMA NURSE EDUCATOR & REGISTERED NURSE (AUCKLAND)
I am ‘inorganically blonde’. I spend a lot of time and money at the hairdresser every 4-5 weeks allowing my hair stylist extraordinaire to work their magic. Like many other ‘inorganic blondes in Auckland’, over the last few months of lock down I have watched myself morph into a brunette. Initially I spent some time stressing about the regrowth. I had to reconcile myself to the fact that this might in fact be my new ‘normal’ and find ways to live with this new me. Over time, the stress became less and less and eventually I stopped taking so much notice and now I am quite content with half of my head brown and the other half blonde. At least until the salons are open again – then it’s back to blonde!
While working from home during this latest lockdown, I have noticed an increase in calls from people with respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD taking stock of their health and asking for support. Covid-19 has people thinking about things differently and people are taking a proactive approach like never before.
I have had calls from individuals who present to hospital multiple times a year with acute life-threatening exacerbations of their asthma and think this is normal for people living with asthma. They use 4x puffs of their reliever inhaler each day (NB: If you are needing more than 2-3 puffs of your reliever inhaler per week, your asthma is likely not controlled) or avoid doing things they love such as sports. These people believe waking up in the early hours every morning coughing and feeling short of breath is part and parcel of having asthma. Some of the people I engage with have come from generations of family members with asthma, some of whom passed away during an asthma attack and now live with the fear of the same happening to them or their loved ones. Similarly to accepting my new hair colour over time, so too did these people learn to live with their asthma symptoms.
Sharing with someone who has these firmly held beliefs and behaviours around asthma that they do not have to live like that is one of the best parts of my job. The education and support my colleagues and I provide to our patients/clients has the potential to change lives. People who are armed with knowledge and wrapped in support by organisations such as Asthma NZ make healthier, more informed health decisions. They are less likely to present to hospital with an acute exacerbation of their asthma because they are able to better recognise the signs of poor asthma control and manage it earlier. They are more likely to be consistent in using their preventer inhalers as they understand the rationale behind it and therefore they use less reliever. They experience an increase in confidence around engaging in sports and other activities and role model good asthma behaviours to younger family members. The benefits are endless.
The ease at which I got used to being a brunette does not quite compare to normalising asthma symptoms over time. As we know, asthma is something that you cannot cover with hair dye to change its appearance at a salon. It is a long term respiratory condition that should be taken seriously. Asthma deaths are absolutely preventable. My sincere hope is that people with asthma and other respiratory conditions continue to take stock and assess their health. I would like to see 2022 be a year of people taking a preventative or primary approach to their health or that of their patients’ and set a new trend of asthma management by referring any newly diagnosed individuals with asthma or COPD to Asthma NZ and lets improve the horrific asthma and respiratory statistics in NZ
SONIA WILTSHIRE, ASTHMA NURSE EDUCATOR (AUCKLAND)
2022 for me is about embracing our changing environment to meet the needs of our clients by embracing technology and being open to new ways of working online.
The CRM system has been instrumental in reaching and influencing a greater numbers of clients.
CATHIE DOWELL, ASTHMA NURSE EDUCATOR (WELLINGTON)
My reflection on 2021
Looking back over the year, it has presented the opportunity to practice ‘being in the now’.
With constant change and uncertainty it has brought life right back to basics. Appreciating the simple things and the good people in my life.
Starting a new job in lockdown has been a surreal experience, I am yet to meet most of the team in person!
Looking ahead with cautious optimism as we navigate our new ‘normal’ in 2022 and looking forward to maybe travelling somewhere – fingers crossed!
JEN STEVENS, ASTHMA NURSE EDUCATOR (AUCKLAND)
Wholly molly (I know we say this every year but……) really its Christmas already?
The years seem to fly by. This year being my first with Asthma NZ, I have been very lucky to work with loads of amazing, kind and intelligent people. My professional highlight would be working with high school students, giving them the tools to better manage their asthma. The future is bright with these adolescents leading the way. I acknowledge the latter half of 2021 has been a strange one for sure. But I believe we should all be proud of what we achieve and heck we are surviving a global pandemic! My hope for the summer is we all get some time over the break to be with family and loved ones and cherish their company, hold them tight because this lockdown in Auckland has been a long one for sure.