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Friday 7 March 2014 1:47pm


When Dunedin nurse Emma Macfarlane wanted to boost her career through extra study, she went back to where she had started.

“I had done a neuroscience degree at Otago, and then went on to do nursing at Otago Polytechnic.

“So when it came to doing my master's, well, I had already studied at Otago before, so it made sense to go back.”

Emma is on track to become a Nurse Practitioner, “a scope of practice requiring expert nursing practice with a range of advanced skills and knowledge. Nurse Practitioners can make differential diagnoses, order and interpret tests and prescribe and administer therapies within their scope of practice”.

Needed a Clinical Masters

“To do that I need to have a Clinical Masters in Nursing. I've done four taught papers in a postgraduate diploma, plus two further taught courses, and now I'm on to my thesis.”

Emma isn't required to do a thesis, but is choosing that option to allow her the option in the future of going on to a PhD.

“My thesis is looking at women's motivation to perform pelvic floor muscular training for the prevention of pelvic organ prolapse.”

A prolapse can occur through weakening of the pelvic floor muscles most commonly caused by pregnancy and childbirth, and is more common than people think, Emma says.

“It's a hidden problem because a lot of women don't talk about it. It can be related to problems with the bladder and bowel, or even uterus, descending, and while it's not life-threatening, it can affect the quality of life for women.”

In the worst cases, surgery is required to correct the problem.

One of a few nationally

Emma works for Family Planning and will be their fourth Nurse Practitioner when she qualifies. As well as working there, she also spends one day a week as a Professional Practice Fellow at the Dunedin School of Medicine in the Department of Women's and Children's Health.

So how is she fitting in a Master's degree by distance on top of working and parenting?

“It's important to get the balance right. I work in the evenings after my son's gone to bed, and in the weekends and I really enjoy being able to do my clinical work but then something more academic as well.

“It's been an amazing experience and well worth taking the bull by the horns and overcoming my doubt about whether I could do it.”

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