Long serving district nurse retires

Linda Killeen.

Te Anau nurse Linda Killeen has retired from a decades-long career caring for Fiordlanders in their homes.

Mrs Killeen's nursing career, which began in 1969, has brought her to work in Invercargill and Taupo.

But for the last 21 years, her office has effectively been in the homes of Fiordlanders, and she says it has been privilege to care for such a tight knit community. 

As a district nurse, her home visits ranged from providing wound care to caring for terminal patients wishing to spend their final days more comfortably at home. 

Over that time she said she had seen improvements in what could be more conveniently provided at home instead of the hospital.

"We do a lot of intravenous things in the community now like antibiotics and drugs... that years ago would have all had to stay in hospital just to have drugs."

Beyond her work in Fiordland, a professional highlight were two trips to Italy in the mid-2000s to care for war veterans during an emotional journey to commemorate the past.

Her niece had helped fundraise $75,000 to pay for around six Southlander veterans who fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy to go back for 60th anniversary commemorations. 

Mrs Killeen accepted her niece's offer to volunteer to provide medical care on the trip, and they joined a larger group of 75 New Zealand veterans plus their relatives and medical and spiritual support.

"A lot of them didn't get a chance to say good-bye to their colleagues. They were shot beside them and fell over and were taken away. They never got a chance to grieve, so it was a very emotional journey for those men, but came back feeling so much better," Mrs Killeen said.

The next year she went to Trieste for end-of-WWII commemorations. 

There are two district nurses in Te Anau, and they have an office leased by the Southern District Health Board at the Fiordland Health Centre. 

Mrs Killeen said it had been great being able to co-ordinate with staff from the medical centre.

"It was wonderful to have that support and liaison with the medical team there. If we had any concerns or we needed anything, we could duck in between patients and say, 'I want a script for somebody' or 'I'm worried about this' or 'Can you go and do a home visit because we've got somebody really sick?'

"I think in a rural community the support of each other is really important because it doesn't work otherwise. You need that support to cope."

Mrs Killeen said she was still wrapping her head around now being retired, but looked forward to staying in touch with her work colleagues, as well spending more time with her grandchildren, doing more community work, and gardening. 

"It's a fabulous community to work in here, having worked in other areas. I think it's lovely and people are very kind. They just welcome you."


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