Three generations of folk in Ngatea were sad to see the familiar face of Robyn Taylor retire from Hauraki Plains Medical Centre in mid-January, after 34 years with the practice.
A Ngatea local through and through, Robyn has spent fifty years nursing, most of those caring for her local community - a habit she'll find hard to break.
"I think I'll find myself still doing a few favours here and there, driving people to appointments who are no longer driving for themselves and that sort of thing. The only thing I won't be able to do is update people about their test results when I'm out at the golf club - it will probably take a while for people to remember that and stop asking," she laughs.
Keen hiker, golfer and grandmother, Robyn doesn't see any shortage of things to keep busy with once finishing up at work. She'll also be hitting the road to visit family and friends, and travelling to Portugal, Spain and the UK to reconnect with relatives and see the sights.
"My husband retired last year, and a big trip has been on the horizon for a while. It was when he threatened to go without me I thought I better get serious about retiring and enjoying the next phase of our life together."
Robyn always knew she wanted to nurse, originally setting her sights on what was then known as karitane nursing due to her love of babies. However, she was quickly encouraged to widen her horizons, and instead completed nursing training at Tauranga hospital.
"My older sister trained as a nurse. I remember hanging on her every word, so I guess it was no surprise I followed in her footsteps. And in fact we must have made it look good as we both have daughters who followed us into nursing."
After qualifying she worked in Auckland in an orthopaedics ward, and then went through to Taranaki Base Hospital. She then moved back to Ngatea so her husband could take up work on her family farm. Robyn - for one brief week - worked in Thames Hospital before a role came up in the medical centre. Back in those days the hospital and medical centre were connected, so she quickly arranged a transfer and her time in general practice began.
Robyn describes her biggest change and career highlight as taking on a specialist role in looking after diabetic patients.
"I did a course in 1999 that really changed the shape of my career. Since then I've done loads and loads of training in this area - learning to assess if a person needs to change their medication or start on insulin, as well as how to educate on the condition. It never stopped feeling worthwhile when I was watching a patient learn to self-manage and enjoy a better lifestyle.
"It's also been really rewarding to have a more collegial relationship with the doctors, managing patients together and being respected as the diabetes expert in our practice," Robyn adds.
"From then till now is so different. When I first starting nursing the role was quite basic - it could almost be described as showing the patients into the doctors room and maybe completing some very basic checks," says Robyn.
"Now nurses take a full clinical load in practice, having responsibility for immunisation, Before School Checks, cervical smears and things like diabetes management," adds GP and owner Ant Smit. "They've moved from our assistants to our colleagues, and ones we highly value. We can't do general practice without our nurses - there is just so much to be done, we need a big team to support our communities."
"This can be easily seen when you consider the relatively new role of medical centre assistant (MCA). Some of the tasks our registered nurses were doing such as equipment sterilisation and blood pressure checks now fall to our MCAs, which lets our nurses focus on other things like helping patients to manage their long term conditions, says Ant.
While Robyn is looking forward to retirement, there have been a few tears shed with patients and colleagues.
"I'm sure there is magic in this building. Everyone who came to work here stayed. Everyone got along. It may sound cliched, but it truly is a big happy family. The stability over the years has been important, it's great for our patients."
Ant is very sad to see Robyn go, but knows she'll be bound to visit often. "Robyn has been here longer than I have. We've worked side by side for a quarter century. We developed such a wonderful, trusting clinical relationship. The work she did with our diabetes patients was outstanding."