Emergency care, intensive care, coronary care, flight nursing, remote rural nursing, nursing management . . . no one can say that Susan Hawken has not made the most of the incredible possibilities that a career in nursing can provide.
Now Nurse Manager at Wairoa Hospital and Health Centre, Susan says there is limitless scope within nursing to work in a huge range of specialities in endless places across the world.
Her remote rural work has included positions in the back blocks of Australia and at Franz Josef in the South Island. Talking about her time as a flight nurse in the 1990s (long before any special flight training for medical staff), triggers a long-remembered heart-stopping (literally) moment.
“I was in a helicopter flying with a patient to Wellington Hospital when he had a cardiac arrest mid-flight. There was just me and the pilot, and I said to him, ‘We’re in trouble, I need to defibrillate [electric shock] – can I do that in a helicopter?
“He said: ‘I don’t know; nobody has ever asked me that before – give it a go. That was terrifying but the pilot descended and gave me the nod to go ahead . . . Luckily the patient only needed one shock and we could head back up and off to Wellington, so all good!”
Susan took up her Wairoa position after 12 years at Hawke’s Bay Hospital, latterly as deputy charge nurse in the emergency department and clinical nurse specialist working on ensuring best pathways and practices for trauma patients.
The move reflects her love of working in small communities. “It’s always been a privilege for me to become a part of a small community. You are very focused on the community’s needs, its differences and the way you can help.
“It’s also the small team that comes with that. Our team here in Wairoa is fantastic; whatever is thrown at us, our whole team gets on and does what needs to be done to improve patient outcomes. My focus here is nursing education and leadership and the supporting of advanced nursing roles in the Wairoa community.”