Hutchison honoured for setting up nurse-led palliative and oncology services on Coast

October 1, 2021

Retiring nurse manager Cheryl Hutchison received NZNO’s services to nursing award at the AGM, an acknowledgement of her work to set up nurse-led palliative and oncology services on the West Coast.

Cheryl Hutchison
Cheryl Hutchison

This allowed people to be cared for in their homes in their final stages of life. “Because I worked in the community, I could see that there was a huge need there… and it was growing fast,” she said. “People were grateful to be able to stay at home.”

Before that, people had to go into hospitals, often in Christchurch more than two hours’ drive away.

District and community nurses would often put in their own time voluntarily to support dying patients, getting up several times a night to help before putting in a full shift the next day. “It was because we were so passionate about people, meeting their needs and desires. But we couldn’t go on like that,” recalls Hutchison, who then lobbied for specialist nursing roles based on the West Coast.

It was tough battle getting funding, but she succeeded – there are now 2.6 full-time equivalent nurses with expertise in oncology and palliative care based on the Coast. They work in tandem with district nurses and in partnership with patients, families and the wider health team, West Coast nurse practitioner Sara Mason said.

‘This came out of her deep sense of responsibility to the community, to ensure that these roles existed in the rural environment where support is limited.’

Mason, a former colleague, said as district nursing manager in the 1990s Hutchison used her knowledge, nursing experience and advocacy skills to develop nursing roles in both oncology and palliative care on the West Coast. “This came out of her deep sense of responsibility to the community, to ensure that these roles existed in the rural environment where support is limited.”

Mason also acknowledged Hutchison’s leadership. “She always finds ways to hold the district nurses and community nurses together, even in hard times.”

After 56 years of nursing, at 73 Hutchison is retiring – kind of. She’s still on the casual pool and hopes to pick up some work in Christchurch, where she is relocating to.

While it’s been tough at times nursing on the Coast, she says “I wouldn’t change a thing”.

“I just absolutely love it, it’s been fabulous. I’ve met so many lovely nurses who work so hard and deserve more recognition.”

The award, she says was an acknowledgement of all her colleagues over the years.

Hutchison would be missed but had inspired West Coast nurses to be a “voice of change”, Mason said.