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Journals from NURS 298 PA Health Care in New Zealand

2010-02-11 Plunket Nursing

Taking a baby home from the hospital can be one of the most exciting and frightening experiences for parents in any country. For over 100 years New Zealand parents have enjoyed a wonderful service called Plunket to help them raise healthy children. The Health Care in New Zealand class got the opportunity to visit a Plunket Center during our visit to Christchurch, New Zealand to learn more about the services provided by Plunket Nurses. Plunket is a Non-Government Organization (NGO) which receives funding from the District Health Board (DHB) to provide services to children and families in the Christchurch area. Plunket is a free service available to parents in New Zealand that provides well child check-ups, car seat rentals, parenting education classes, 24-7 telephone hotline, breastfeeding help and many more services to ensure the health of young families. As nursing and health science students we learned a great deal about well child services in New Zealand and the importance of preventative health care for all children which we can use in our future practice. Our hosts at the Christchurch Plunket office were Vicki Zumbraegel, the clinical nurse leader, and Rachel Wright, the volunteer coordinator; they made us feel very welcome and introduced us to the many services provided by Plunket. According to Rachel, the original services provided by Plunket nurses were the well child check-ups to ensure children were growing and developing well for their age. In the beginning this meant taking the childs weight, height, and other measures but today this service has expanded. Today these visits include physical, social and cognitive development assessments by looking as milestones such as crawling, talking and walking as per the Thriving Under Five booklet. These assessments are performed regularly until the child is 5 years old and help detect development problems early on and give parents the support and information they need to raise healthy children. The Plunket nurses will also advise parents on immunizations, breastfeeding and nutrition during their visits, which many be done in the familys home. This combination of early detection, support, convenience and education creates a great preventative health care system. According to Vikki 90% of families in Christchurch are enrolled in Plunket, so the service is thoroughly utilized. One of the goals for this class is to compare and contrast the health care systems of New Zealand and the United States. A stark contrast is the Plunket system and primary health care for children in the United States. In the Untied States we have a highly disjointed system involving costly visits to the pediatrician with no in home assessments of the familys living environment. Plunket nurses often visit the home of clients and can find out the root of childrens problems or even discover cases of child abuse. In the United States we offer some of these same services, but they are much harder to access and cost a great deal more. These barriers in the Untied States result in our children often falling through the cracks and not having their health care needs met until they enter the public schools system at age five. Additionally, parents in New Zealand feel supported and informed in the care of their children and love they Plunket system. One New Zealander mother who had moved to the United States spoke about how much she missed the Plunket nurses and how much harder it was for her without them. The other services they offer like car seat rentals and toy libraries actually keep kids safe and reduce the waste of every family buying a care seat or new toys for their growing children. These are both great services that I have not heard about in the United States. All of the services offered by Plunket improve the outcomes for children and families which seem to be lacking in our system. Parents in the United States are expected to just figure it out on their own, it seems. Maybe this is because we have different values in our health care, since they seem to value preventative services and we seem to value our acute health care services. Perhaps we could learn something from them in this regard. As a nurse someday I will try to advocate for my patients to get better access to all of these services in the United States. Its pretty ambitious, but I hope to advocate for legislation to improve the preventative health care in the United States. I feel that this experience has given me a better perspective on childrens health care and motivates me to work for better childrens health care in the United States. I feel truly blessed to have been given this opportunity to broaden my horizons and see a different side of health care. Gail Meeker Nursing Student

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