October 2021

Patsy Bodger

Pat Bodger, Te Atiawa, Ngati Mutanga, Taranaki, Ngāruahine, Ngati Ruanui, has a straightforward approach to rural community nursing: you just get it done.

It’s a simple answer that comes from a lifetime of varied and skilled work, constant learning and deep community relationships in Taranaki; work that Pat was widely celebrated for when she retired in June 2021. For the past 18 years Pat has been the Midlands Regional Health Network Charitable Trust (MRHNCT) District Nurse based in Mōkau, serving people from the summit of Mt Messenger to the Awakino Tunnel and beyond.

There are no GP services in the area, making the role a crucial nurse-led, sole charge service. “I really advocate for nurse-led clinics, especially in areas like this,” Pat says. “It’s an excellent model and good for nurse advancement, it needs to be encouraged.” “I’ve loved every minute of this job in Mōkau. I love the families and the work, even the driving. Every day is different and you never know what you’re going to get.” Patient feedback makes it clear the feeling is mutual. “It’s been fantastic having the nurse services available at Mōkau, this has been a godsend at times,” says one patient. Others agree: “Pat Bodger is very respected in our community and we appreciate the service she provides. Without Pat things would have been very hard.” “Not only being an excellent nurse, she is very understanding and gives excellent advice when needed.”

 Sarah Wood, Pinnacle Taranaki regional services co-ordinator, says the breadth of relationships Pat has in the community, along with her skills and knowledge, has made it a privilege to work with her. “It’s impressive, the way Pat’s patients identify with her and how she identifies with them. She is leaving big shoes to fill.” Pat’s 50+ year nursing career started with her training at Barrett St Hospital in New Plymouth, then took her to the operating theatres of Wellington before moving on to a bureau nursing role in the Auckland area.

This role sparked Pat’s passion for palliative care when she had a stint working at St Joseph’s Hospice, Mercy Hospital. Public health and general practice nursing roles in West Auckland followed. In the late 90s she returned home to Taranaki and set up Piki Te Ora Nursing Services with her sister, Christine, who is also a nurse. The nurse-led community and kaupapa Māori service picked up many contracts in the rohe. With a wealth of skills and knowledge, extensive trusted referral networks and time working in the community, it was a natural step for Pat to take up the MRHNCT Mōkau community nurse position in 2003. She developed the 20-hour a week Mōkau contract into a three-day service, working and connecting with people across their lifespan, from birth to old age and palliative care.

 Spending time with people, getting to know families and becoming part of the community around the maunga, Pat is a well-known and trusted community nurse. Pat’s connection to whānau and the wider community included becoming a trustee, representative or member of many boards, trusts and community organisations. Her roles include chairperson of Manukohiri Hapū, and Te Atiawa representative on Te Whare Punanga Kōrero, Taranaki’s regional Māori health governance body made up of members from each of Taranaki’s eight iwi.

Currently she is on the Taranaki District Health Board as Māori appointed representative. Pat is also a trustee on the board of Hospice Taranaki Incorporated Society. Ongoing learning and updating her skills are another important part of Pat’s nursing journey. “Pat is a lifelong learner,” says Sarah. “She’ll do any education that will benefit patients.” Pat agrees. “Wanting to learn is really important, despite postgraduate study leading me to many sleepless nights! You can’t do your job properly if you don’t upskill your knowledge and stay up to date with new methods.”

 As she reaches retirement, it would be easy to assume Pat is ready for a rest, but she’s not going anywhere. The powerhouse nurse and health advocate plans to continue her contribution to the Taranaki community she has served for so long, working with hapū, iwi and continuing her connection with Māori health. “I can’t retire from any of that. You just do it. Where there’s a gap, you fill it.” In parting, Pat says, “Thank you to the wonderful community of Mōkau and North Taranaki for letting me be part of your lives, supporting you and serving you.”

These days, Pat works within the Tui Ora Family Health clinic as a trusted Tamariki Ora/Well Child nurse. As you can tell from her many incredible achievements, we are very privileged to have her as part of our team, and with no retirement for her in sight or mind, we hope to have her around for many years to come!

Originally published in Pulse Magazine. Reproduced with permission from Taranaki District Health Board

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