News and Notices

Local Clinical Nurse Specialist celebrates 30 years of service at Nelson Hospital

A Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora Nelson Marlborough Infection Prevention Clinical Nurse Specialist will celebrate her 30-year work anniversary this May.

In 1994, Barb Gibson took up the role of sole Infection Control Nurse at Nelson Hospital. Since then, the role has developed significantly.

“I had no idea what an Infection Control Nurse was when I started, I lived in terror of my pager going off. I had one dated textbook, a standalone computer with no internet and a few basic policies. I relied heavily on the microbiology team and Public Health for support as we had no Infectious Diseases Specialist in the region”, Barb said.

“After I’d been in the job for around one year, I went to my first national conference and that opened doors for me. I developed networks, met colleagues, could put faces to names and gradually we got on board with technology. I also completed an Infection Control Practitioner’s Certificate course”, she continued.

Barb Gibson Landscape3

A few years ago, Barb’s title changed from Infection Control to Infection Prevention to better reflect the proactive nature of the service. Now, she is part of the wider Infection Prevention team of three Clinical Nurse Specialists who collaborate with colleagues across New Zealand and play an integral part in keeping our healthcare services safe from infection transmission.

One of the most significant challenges of Barb’s career was the Covid-19 pandemic, “I’m really proud of our team, the wider health team and our overall response, I feel that we did a pretty good job in Nelson Marlborough”, she said.

“Our region was one of the national frontrunners with the Covid-19 vaccination programme, Public Health teams were incredibly proactive and got out there and did it. Hospitals were as well prepared as they could be, with staff vaccination programmes, staff training and simulations. We just pulled together really well as a region”.

Throughout her career, Barb has taken every opportunity to broaden her knowledge. A secondment with the Health Quality & Safety Commission in 2021 gave her the opportunity to work on NZ’s first national healthcare-associated infection point prevalence survey. This was a significant milestone as for the first time, the country had its own accurate healthcare-associated infection data.

Barb’s work has also taken her to the Pacific Islands where she mentored local Infection Prevention professionals and developed national programmes, policies and procedures to assist them in preventing the spread of diseases and infections. She is also a member of the New Zealand Medical Assistance Team (NZMAT), who provide emergency healthcare support to the Pacific Islands in the event of natural disasters or health emergencies.

Another secondment role as an Improvement Advisor with the Clinical Governance Support team in 2023 gave Barb the skills to develop infection prevention quality improvement projects.

As well as teaching others, Barb has learnt from those around her while building strong working relationships.

 “I’m constantly inspired and in awe of the skills, passion and knowledge of our team, and I have developed some longstanding relationships with senior colleagues around the country who also inspire me”.

Barb’s key message for colleagues is familiar: “Hand hygiene is the fundamental way to prevent the transfer of infectious bugs from one person to another. If we all, including people at home, washed or sanitised our hands at the right times, we would significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases amongst our families, in hospitals, or anywhere”.

This Sunday marks the 50-year anniversary of International Nurses Day which serves as a reminder of the crucial role nurses play in the healthcare industry. This year’s theme is ‘The Economic Power of Care’.