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Raglan’s Plunket Nurse Retires

Ingrid Rendle admits she was “in two minds” about finally retiring and relinquishing her job as the local Plunket nurse after more than a dozen years working with Raglan mothers and babies.“But there comes a time to move on,” adds the 68-year-old grandmother of 10, who’s looking ahead now to five months’ holiday in the UK before she and her husband Neil return to town and a more leisured life.

“The closer I get to the actual leaving date the more excited I feel,” she told the Chronicle last week of her final day’s work next Thursday. “So I know it’s the right decision.”

Even so, Ingrid reckons she’ll watch from the sidelines – in the supermarket aisles for instance – as the children she’s worked with over the years grow up. “It’s very rewarding, working with families,” she says.

But there’ve been “huge” changes in the 28 years she’s worked as a Plunket nurse, the last 12 or so dividing her time between Ngaruawahia and Raglan.

The first that springs to mind, she says, is the age of the mothers. Way back in the 1970s and 80s – when Ingrid was busy as a mum herself to four sons – women were giving birth in their 20s, whereas now they can be in their late 30s and even early 40s.

“Given another generation we’re going to have some very old grandparents,” she adds, clearly a little concerned that the current trend means today’s mothers may not have so strong a family support network.

Whether babies should be fed on demand or to a routine has also changed according to the decades, she points out. “It’s all swings and roundabouts.”

Then there’s new babies’ sleeping positions which have changed from being on their tummies to on their backs – or from side to side – after studies showed the high incidence of cot deaths dropped drastically when a newborn’s position was reversed.

“Gosh, the changes!” Ingrid marvels.

Birthing outside of hospitals with midwives in attendance is another big turnaround, she says, as is the trend now for mothers to head back to work soon after having their children.

But mothers and babies themselves essentially don’t change, insists Ingrid, and neither does the Plunket support system which is unique to this country. Plunket sees over 90 percent of babies in New Zealand, with nurses still recording their growth and development in individual health books which parents often kept as momentos.

Despite all her extra training in lactation and so on, says Ingrid, most people still believe the job of the Plunket nurse is simply to “weigh babies”.

That’s a very important part of the job, she concedes, but so too is the expert support and advice that Plunket nurses have to offer mothers and their babies. “It can take a small thing – a simple suggestion perhaps – to make a problem come right.”

And nine times out of 10 the mothers are just needing reassurance, Ingrid insists.

Helping set up coffee groups as a support network among first-time mothers in Raglan has been another rewarding part of Ingrid’s job. The groups work really well here, she says, because many of the new mums have been too busy commuting to work to get to know others in the community, while others are from overseas with no family support at all.

Raglan’s been a “fabulous” place to work because of the nature of the community, Ingrid says, and she’s loved living nearly 20 years now in Earles Place – overlooking Manu Bay – with “the quietness of the bush behind us and the sea in front of us”.

But her sons and their young families are now living in various places – Raglan, Wellington, the Gold Coast of Australia and the UK – and Ingrid feels the need for more freedom.

“You can see what I’m going to do with my time,” she says.

A community morning tea is to be held in the town hall supper room next Monday to farewell Ingrid and welcome her replacement, Sue Sallis from Waitetuna. 


Edith Symes

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