Nurse-led service treating blindness

29 June 2016

Rachel Cook ready to give Aylene Harper an Avastin injection into the eye

Rachel Cook ready to give Aylene Harper an Avastin injection into the eye


A new nurse led service at Hauora Tairāwhiti is ensuring that there are no interruptions for people needing treatment for blindness.

In 2007 there were 80 people registered in Tairāwhiti as blind. That year a new treatment option began - Avastin injections. The injection direct into the eye are used to treat wet macular degeneration - the leading cause of blindness. The injections are also used with people who have retinal vein blockages or diabetes - the leading cause of blindness in working age people. The injection stops the growth of new leaky blood vessels.

The following year - 2008 - only 4 people in Tairāwhiti were registered as blind.

Over the last nine years approximately ten injections have been given by the Hauora Tairāwhiti Opthamologist Mr Graham Wilson each week. Generally people are prescribed a treatment plan of monthly injections for 3- 6 months, says Mr Wilson. “Previously when I have not been available people have to travel to Waikato for the treatment. However after encouraging Clinical Nurse Specialist Rachel Cook she has now been trained to do these injections. This means access to this important service can be maintained whether an ophthamologist is available or not.”

“Rachel has been thoroughly trained. To qualify she gave over 50 injections under supervision by myself and Dr Sheng Hong. The first injections she gave were into the eyes of people who are legally blind. Rachel soon grew confident and was particularly good at calming people down who felt nervous about the procedure.”

“Rachel has studied post graduate papers to ensure she has the correct knowledge base and worked with local and regional departments to ensure the service at Hauora Tairāwhiti is as safe as anywhere else.”

Director of Nursing Sonia Gamblen says that Rachel should be congratulated for committing to the training and working at the highest end of the registered nurse scope of practice. “She had to be fully credentialed for expanded nursing practice to undertake the procedure. Hopefully what Rachel has achieved will inspire other nurses to do the same.”

Rachel loves her work. “While there was a lot of study and preparation to set up the service – policy, guidelines and standing orders needed to written and approved – it has been worth it. I enjoy seeing people each month, getting to know them and watching their eyesight improve. “

“I am very grateful to Mr Graham Wilson and my manager Deb Cordiner who were very supportive of my training and getting the service underway.”