News and Notices

Nelson Marlborough Congratulates Nurse Practitioner Graduate Chris Gaul

There are around 300 nurse practitioners in New Zealand and having graduated from the Nurse Practitioner Training Programme this past December, Chris Gaul is now among their ranks. 

She has joined the Ambulatory Care team as a nurse practitioner with a practice scope of older persons’ care. Starting in January, she has been visiting patients in their homes or rest homes in the Nelson area, providing comprehensive geriatric assessments and care.


What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner can assess the patient, order diagnostic tests, interpret results, make diagnoses, develop treatment plans, and prescribe medications, with the same authority as a medical practitioner.

Chris says, “someone described it to a patient once for me as ‘you’re taking the best parts of nursing and the best parts of being a doctor and putting them both together to really get the best outcome for the person.’” 

The road to this major achievement was not an easy one.

“It’s been the most intense year of my thirty years of nursing,” Chris says with a relieved laugh. “The stress, the expectation as well. It is a jump up from being a registered nurse. We all have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge but I think the realisation that the buck stops with you is huge. The extra pressure you put on yourself is quite intense."


Middle aged woman Chris with short blonde hair smiles whilst taking a selfie

Chris Gaul, Nurse Practitioner

What it took

“This last year has been an internship. It’s another year of study in clinical practice, maintaining and meeting so many hours, and then you’re assessed for your clinical competence. You do your clinical eight-hour day, and then you’re spending time at home reading up and refreshing or learning new things, on top of all your assignments as well.”

“The most supportive way to become a nurse practitioner is to get a place on a training programme. There are just 50 places in the country each year. To get a place you have to meet the academic requirements but also have a job at the end. I was really fortunate to get a place. It meant that while I was working at my internship and studying full-time, I didn’t have my Clinical Nurse Specialist job to do as well.”


"I couldn't have asked for more support"

Chris says that the support she received from Lisa Turner (Charge Nurse Manager – AT&R), Jill Clendon (ADON – Ambulatory Care), Rosey Wilson (Service Manager – Medicine), and Jodi Miller (ADON – Workforce Development) as well as other nurse practitioners and the geriatricians, has been invaluable and encouraging.

“I had so much support, it’s been unbelievable. I’m really grateful. I felt very fortunate and very privileged to have been so supported because I know from my study group of people around the country that that isn’t everyone’s experience. I couldn’t have asked for more.”


What inspired Chris to take on the challenge

“I think that I have always been quite driven in my career to do the best and the most that I can for an individual, and my passion is older people. I wanted to see where my nursing scope could take me to be able to offer the best to an older person.

"The benefit of a nurse practitioner is that I am utilising all of that nursing knowledge but also some medical knowledge as well in order to give a really holistic approach to that person’s care. I think that’s probably what inspired me: to really be able to join all the dots up and be able to look at the whole picture.”


Looking forward

In the future Chris believes there will be more nurse practitioners in New Zealand. The demand is already there. Though it is a challenging pathway, Chris encourages nurses with Master’s degrees to consider becoming nurse practitioners.

“It has been incredibly rewarding to work autonomously with patients and get to practice whole-person care. If any one is interested in the path to becoming a nurse practitioner they are welcome to contact me.”