From suitcase clinics for women, to being the ''godmother'' of bed-wetting and travelling to isolated farms and communities to provide emergency care, registered nurse Marg Eckhoff has played an important part in rural health in Central Otago for many years.

Now 67, Mrs Eckhoff, of Alexandra, is married to former MP and former Otago Regional councillor Gerry and they have four children, seven grandchildren and one dog, Izzy.

She said next to her family, nursing had been her passion since she first started training in Dunedin after leaving school.

''I love it,'' she said.


She is proud of her achievements, including setting up suitcase clinics in 2007 to give Roxburgh women a choice when they needed smears but did not wish to see a male doctor.

She has been providing on-call emergency nursing care since 1996 and continues on a monthly arrangement as a Prime (Primary Response in Medical Emergencies) nurse in Ranfurly.

She has sat on several rural health committees, written articles and made presentations to doctor and nurse colleagues locally and nationally.

She knits prosthetic breasts for women with mastectomies, and she is prepared to speak up about issues that needed to be addressed.

''If it is to do with rural health, and I feel strongly about it, I will speak about it,'' she said.

That has included the need for continued maternity care in Lumsden.

She resigned from her job as nurse manager (since 1995) at the Roxburgh Medical Centre in 2006, following a directive that nurses give patients their methadone during the weekends.

She felt that was dangerous and the environment unsafe as she would be in the clinic alone.


That highlighted the danger many nurses in rural practices continue to face, as they often work alone.

''Apart from getting married and having a family, to me the best thing I've done is help kids with bed-wetting.''

She was awarded a grant for a study course in 1995, and worked with Chris Harkness, a bed-wetting specialist, in Perth.

She then set up the Roxburgh Bedwetting Charitable Trust to provide alarms to coach children to overcome the issue.

She, son Sam, of Dunedin, and daughter Alice, of Cromwell, are now involved in a bed-wetting coaching clinic, Lemon Tree, helping children throughout New Zealand.

The website calls Mrs Eckhoff the ''godmother of bed-wetting''.

After leaving Roxburgh she worked at Dunstan Hospital for nine years, then for a year as a district nurse.

She has always had a special interest in emergency nursing.

One patient was a young boy who fell through a roof on to concrete and had severe head fractures.

He recovered and is now a farmer.

''It is a wonderful thing, to be part of a team doing that.

''However, there are some we can't save and I am my own harshest critic.''

As well as her Prime nursing, Mrs Eckhoff continues to work regularly with the Mobile Surgical Bus and casually at Dunstan Hospital and local GP practices.

Southern Rural Life