New nurse practitioner adds value to Taranaki Aged Residential Care

4 April 2023

After more than five years of extramural study, Maria Escarlan can proudly call herself a nurse practitioner after completing her master’s degree in nursing through the University of Otago last year.

Maria fell in love with aged care nursing after moving to New Zealand from the Philippines in 2010.  It was this passion combined with her desire to constantly provide patients with positive ageing experiences, that inspired her to study to become a nurse practitioner.

Years of working in Aged Residential Care (ARC) meant Maria knew the demands on General Practitioners (GPs) were increasing and could see that by becoming a nurse practitioner, she’d gain a skillset that would enable her to provide a higher level of care and help more patients.

As a nurse practitioner, Maria is now a clinical nurse specialist in ARC for Te Whatu Ora in Taranaki. Maria’s days are spent providing external clinical support to 26 Aged Residential Care (ARC) facilities across Taranaki, says Diana Fergusson, interim director of nursing Te Whatu Ora in Taranaki.

“Maria supports ARC facilities to proactively identify and intervene in medical geriatric issues to help ease the burden on GPs and reduce the number of elderly visiting the Emergency Department and being admitted to hospital,” Diana continues.

For Maria, being a nurse practitioner means getting satisfaction from being able to provide a holistic service, nursing and health care to the older people population who are residing in ARC facilities, she says.

“I’m now able to look beyond just treating the ailment by first considering non-medical intervention and if needed, prescribing pharmacological intervention,” says Maria. “This provision of an advanced nursing service is hugely valuable to ARC patients because they can stay in their environment, minimising or preventing inappropriate ED presentation or hospitalisations.”

Becoming a nurse practitioner was intense and no easy feat and Maria says there were several people along her journey whose support has been invaluable. Special mentions must go to her mentors Wendy Walsh, also a nurse practitioner specialist in gerontology and a primary medical provider to ARC facilities, and Dr Victoria Stiebel who is a consultant geriatrician.

“These two both helped me push myself to become better each day.”

Maria also received informal mentorship from nurse practitioners at Te Whatu Ora in Taranaki, and encouragement from the nursing management team. She describes the continuous support from the older people’s health department as integral and is particularly grateful to Dr Di Stokes, the consultant geriatricians and gerontology nurse specialists, whose regular medical case reviews have and will continue to help Maria improve her diagnostic skills.


Last updated: Wednesday, April 5, 2023

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