Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Nurse steps in for holidaying GP

Experienced practitioner says she’s thrilled at the opportunity.
Nurse practitioner Jackie Clapperton  is filling in at Turanga Health near Gisborne. Photo /  Brennan Thomas
Nurse practitioner Jackie Clapperton is filling in at Turanga Health near Gisborne. Photo / Brennan Thomas

Covering for the local doctor while they are away on holiday can be big shoes to fill - especially if you are a nurse.

But nurse practitioner Jackie Clapperton has taken on that challenge with vigour as the stand-in GP at the Turanga Health medical centre in rural Gisborne.

The only St John intensive care paramedic and nurse practitioner in the country will work as the centre's GP for the next two weeks.

Ms Clapperton, 44, who has worked as an emergency department nurse for seven years and in the ambulance service for 15 years, said she was thrilled to get a chance to work in another patch of the medical field. "I've been lucky to integrate my nurse practitioner role into what I do at St John, but I didn't expect to ever be working at a rural general practice. I have to admit, I jumped for joy when the opportunity arose."

She had chosen to continue her studies to qualify as a nurse practitioner after someone told her she would not be able to do it. "That fired me up.

"I am not an academic, but I am good at practical things - I am good at forward-thinking, planning the next step and joining the dots during an emergency situation.

So I kept on doing the papers and reaching the next step."

Ms Clapperton's training means she, despite not being a GP, can still prescribe medication, order tests and imaging and carry out assessment and treatments on patients.

News of Ms Clapperton's new role comes after a Tokoroa GP, Dr Alan Kenny, put out a desperate plea for a replacement doctor in the area after he could not secure a junior doctor for two years.

The situation had meant Dr Kenny had had to cancel holidays and work all hours of the day and night.

The Turanga Health chief executive, Reweti Ropiha, said the centre was proud to have Ms Clapperton on as a stand-in doctor.

Not only did it help to ease workload among staff, but also it ultimately provided a key service for the public.

"Jackie is the first nurse practitioner we've employed to backfill a GP on leave. Our general practice is just over 30km from Gisborne and it's getting harder and harder to staff when key staff are away," Mr Ropiha said.

"This is the first time we've thought to use a nurse practitioner. It's a huge step forward for seamless provision of healthcare in a rural setting."

- NZ Herald

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