New life leads to study path for Annatjie Pretorius

By Andrew Austin

Annatjie Pretorius with the thesis she researched and wrote for her Master of Nursing degree. Photo/Supplied
Annatjie Pretorius with the thesis she researched and wrote for her Master of Nursing degree. Photo/Supplied

A swerve in Annatjie Pretorius's life journey will see her capped with a Master of Nursing at EIT's graduation ceremony on Friday.

After training as a nurse in South Africa, Mrs Pretorius never imagined leaving her homeland of Zimbabwe. However her son, Munnik, now 17, has severe haemophilia and the supply of medication which allows him to live a normal life was becoming increasingly fickle.

"We were told with every delivery that it would be the last shipment. The country had no money, no petrol - it was a huge incentive to leave."

Nonetheless, it was a challenging move to the other side of the world.

"The map looks small," says Mrs Pretorius, whose husband Dewet worked as a forestry nursery manager at Tikokino for the next two years.

The family of four obtained New Zealand citizenship before moving to Hastings.

Mrs Pretorius, meanwhile, had "hung up her nursing shoes" 10 years earlier after marrying and starting a family.

"That was the lifestyle in Rhodesia. The men worked, the women stayed at home, had children and managed the household. It was a home life with tea parties and socialising. Here I have to work for the rest of my life," she laughs.

She completed a course to update her nursing competencies and prepare her for New Zealand nursing practice. After nursing at Royston Hospital for four years, she has worked the last seven years in Hawke's Bay Hospital's emergency department.

Studying for her master's started almost accidentally, with a postgraduate paper on advanced clinical assessment and diagnostic reasoning.

"Funding was available, other nurses were studying, and the paper focused on what I was doing every day as an ED nurse."

Mrs Pretorius progressed to a course every year, which led to her achieving the EIT Postgraduate Diploma in Health Science. Then a nursing colleague in ED persuaded her to join her in studying for the master's degree.

"It was just another couple of papers, she said, we are nearly there."

She says studying at EIT has "absolutely" helped in her job.

"Like many, I looked askance at people who took on further study. But I really got into it. You only then realise there's so much more to know and how that can improve your nursing and broaden your thinking.

"Previously, I might have asked why I should have to change. I know now that you have to constantly improve your knowledge and keep up to date to ensure best practice at all times. That knowledge enhances everything you do, making you a better person and a better nurse."

Spending the best part of a year on master's research, Mrs Pretorius rates EIT's library staff highly.

"You've got to make sure your referencing is correct and they are masters at that. If I lost any typed work on the day, they would fiddle and retrieve it. They were fantastic, absolutely brilliant."

As an enthusiastic upskiller, she is a now a candidate for Nurse Practitioner and she is also involved in an EIT research project on skin cancer screening. Her daughter Mareli, a second-year Bachelor of Nursing student at EIT, will be joining her husband and son in celebrating Mrs Pretorius's graduation.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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