Clinical director South Taranaki Rural Health and Fellow of the Division of Rural Hospital Medicine (FDRHMNZ)
Emma started with us in 2014, her clinical role being a rural generalist doctor providing rural emergency and inpatient generalist care for the people of South Taranaki.
What does your role involve?
The role and scope of the clinical work is broad and interesting. You never know what is going to come through the doors and need to make decisions to either stabilise and transfer patients to another hospital or admit patients to our Hāwera inpatient ward.
It’s about knowing the limitations of our own skillset and scope of practice as a generalist and when you need to phone a specialist friend. It’s also about understanding the skillset of the Hāwera Hospital nursing and allied health teams and the resources available which at times can be limited and variable when compared to Base Hospital.
We need to understand our rural context, our location and the distance from a Base Hospital and the ambulance resources that are available when caring for patients and these factors my change hour to hour!
As Clinical Director, I have the privilege to lead an amazing team of SMOs (Senior Medical Officers) in promoting and advocating for rural health within the TDHB. We still have a long way to go both regionally and nationally to have equitable healthcare for rural people and in particular for Māori living rurally.
Tell us about your team
My team has a mixture of SMO scopes and backgrounds: Rural Hospital Medicine, General Practice, Urgent Care and Emergency Medicine.
Dr Tom Dawson is the Head of Department – South Taranaki Rural Health with whom I work closely with. I work with a team of SMO leaders with a range of different skills and styles that complement our generalist nature. We’re a department that supports training for Rural Hospital Medicine registrars and supervise fifth year students from the University of Auckland.
Are you working on any special projects?
We’ve been developing and implementing a new rural model of care for South Taranaki since mid-2020. This has involved the addition of a new primary care service at the Hāwera Hospital facility which has a growing enrolled population and can also provide acute care for casual patients. Our vision is to align with recent reforms to improve access to primary and community care for people and to promote better integration of community, primary and secondary services and co-ordinate care more seamlessly for South Taranaki patients. We’ve only just begun and the road is long and convoluted but it’s an exciting opportunity towards improving rural health outcomes.
How did you get to this point in your career?
I’m an international medical graduate from Manchester originally but this big city girl was always destined to live and work in a smaller place.
I came to New Zealand in 2007 and joined the Rural Hospital Medicine training programme in 2009 in its infancy as one of the first registrars on the new programme. This was my calling and I’ve since been inspired by many doctors who’ve worked in rural areas for many years and I’ve been able to work and live in many different places of New Zealand whilst training.
I completed training in 2014 and started at Hāwera Hospital soon after this and took the clinical lead position at that time... and the rest is history!
What’s the best thing about your job?
Making a difference to the health of patients living in a rural area. Meeting the challenge of providing equitable care to patients in rural areas when we are constrained by resources - it is not boring!
Working within our small team of leaders - doctors, nurses, allied and managers - a truly incredible group of people.
What inspires you to keep doing your work?
The people, the people, the people! My team, my community and my family, and the relentless drive to improve the health of rural communities and to abolish inequity that faces us every day.
Any big plans?
Assisting in building and sustaining a rural medical and interdisciplinary workforce through education and training. Assisting in rural research and linking with other rural localities to have a stronger voice nationally. Improving my Te Reo Māori to link better with my patients, community and be a positive example for my children.