Karen Armstrong

27 May 2017

Winner Lifetime Services to Nursing Award

Karen Armstrong

Retired clinical nurse specialist in ostomy and continence, Karen Armstrong, has great confidence in the service she did so much to develop and improve. She was thrilled, to be honoured with the Nurses and Midwives of Tairawhiti (NAMOT) award for Lifetime Services to Nursing. Picture by Paul Rickard (Gisborne Herald).

The recently retired clinical nurse specialist in ostomy and continence provided the highlight of the Nurses and Midwives of Tairawhiti (NAMOT) Achievement Awards and was very much taken by surprise.

“I was thrilled,” she said.

“I had a standing ovation. I was very thrilled and very honoured.’’

Her husband Mike and daughters Sarah and Katy had known about the award for several weeks.

“Sarah was home from Rotorua. I thought we were going to a restaurant for dinner, but we were going the wrong way.

“I asked ‘where are we going?’’’

Mrs Armstrong said she became a bit suspicious during the NAMOT dinner as to why her whole family were there.

She thought she may be given a certificate to acknowledge 50 years of nursing service in a very low key way.

Mrs Armstrong has been inspiring Tairawhiti nurses since the early 1970’s when she returned home from training and working in Auckland and from overseas travel.

Medical rehab at Cook Hospital

A varied Gisborne career started in the medical rehabilitation ward at Cook Hospital before her move to district nursing in late 1973 where she first began supporting ostomates.

She later workede as a practice nurse for GP Dr Dave Somerton and begin her formal stomal therapy training in 1992.

NAMOT colleagues acknowledged her work in developing nurse - led clinics when urologists were not available to assess men with lower urinary tract symptoms and in visiting more isolated areas to provide outreach clinics.

She was described as “an amazingly knowledgeable mentor to new staff” who worked across disciplines such as physiotherapy to help patients with their continence concerns.

Mrs Armstrong networked with her colleagues across New Zealand while the Hauora Tairawhiti ostomy and continence service continued to expand courtesy of her expert advice, said NAMOT.

She told the Herald that no one in Gisborne, back in 1992, had formal training in stomaltherapy.

“I took it on.’’

Training at Waiariki Polytechnic

She spent a year training through Waiariki Polytechnic.

Why would she choose such a speciality?

“There was absolutely a need for an improved service,” Mrs Armstrong said.

“I wanted to help people. I loved it, I was hooked. Then I saw a need for continence management. That fitted in with ostomy nursing.”

Mrs Armstrong undertook further training in 1996 at Unitec in Auckland for a certificate in continence management.

In 2003 she completed a post-graduate certificate at Otago University in Health Sciences, endorsed in continence management.

Her post-graduate studies led to an expanded service in Gisborne, which now works across many diverse medical areas.

In 2002, 10 years after Mrs Armstrong began her formal stomal therapy training, the Gisborne service had expanded.

It was at that time that Anna Veitch joined the service. The stomal therapist studied by distance learning from an Australian institution as there is no formal stomal therapy training available in New Zealand.

In 2015 Kate Petro joined the team and is currently doing her academic stomal therapy training.

Mrs Armstrong has no concerns over the service in her absence following her retirement in September.

“Absolutely not, it is in good hands. I didn’t look back. With something you have developed over the years it’s lovely to see hard working, enthusiastic and dedicated nurses maintaining and improving the service.”