ON THE FRONTLINE: Eidsvold director of nursing Nicci Maher. Picture: Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service.
ON THE FRONTLINE: Eidsvold director of nursing Nicci Maher. Picture: Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service.

Frontline hero’s fight against pandemic

YEARS of rural medical placement has given one North Burnett nurse the edge during the coronavirus pandemic.

Director of nursing at the Eidsvold Multipurpose Health Service Nicci Maher has seen it all in her years as a regional nurse.

During the humble beginnings of her career, she ventured out to the bush, unsure if nursing was right for her.

“I saw there was a graduate nurse position in Mitchell, western Queensland, which included suturing, cannulation, x-ray licensing and plaster care,” Ms Maher said.

“This made nursing even more exciting for me, even if it meant moving six hours away from home.”

That was the beginning of a nursing career that has taken her to remote places throughout Queensland, including Thursday Island and Mornington Island.

These experiences have led her to her current role at the Eidsvold MPHS, where she has been working for more than six years.

Ms Maher, 41, said the best part of her job had always been the satisfaction she got from providing the best possible care and support to her patients and their loved ones.

“This could be through providing trauma care in the middle of a paddock two hours from the clinic, or helping someone to find care services to be able to stay at home,” she said.

“In rural and remote nursing, something I love is that the community is part of the team. I’ve experienced some great moments with community members who have helped out in times of need.”

This teamwork between the community and the health sector has been crucial when confronting the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

While the number of confirmed cases across rural Queensland has been low, Wide Bay Hospital and Health facilities in the North Burnett had to take precautions to protect their aged care residents.

“COVID-19 certainly has thrown up some interesting challenges for the rural facilities, and during the first few days and weeks it was a struggle to grasp all of the changes – change fatigue and information overload can be a real issue during times like these,” Ms Maher said.

“Eidsvold MPHS has some challenges with the infrastructure and layout of the facility.

“To ensure we can continue to provide safe and timely care to our residents and community, we’ve made significant changes to where our acute and aged care beds are, and where access points are for the public, patients, residents and staff.”

Ms Maher was then tasked with reviewing their coronavirus care pathways, and developing access plans for their rural facilities, while working with emergency and intensive care nurse educators to provide training.

“A lot of time and effort has gone into making sure we’re ready if, for instance, the current good containment of the virus changes,” she said.

“I want people to know we’re doing everything possible to ensure our community stays safe.”

As International Nurses Day approaches on May 12, Ms Maher said the 2020 theme of “nursing the world to health” resonated with her more than ever.

“I can’t emphasise enough how valuable nurses are to our community,” Ms Maher said.

“Nurses are at the forefront of patient care. They’re often the first healthcare professional someone meets when presenting to hospital and the last one they see when they’re discharged.

“Nurses educate patients, families and carers, and this is a really important role in developing healthy communities.”

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