Despite the profession’s pressures, caring for sick youngters is a ‘huge privilege’ for specialist nurse
Talking to Anneke Slager is one of these great double whammies that come Our People’s way from time to time.
That she’s a native Netherlander incorporates her into our ever-growing list of this city’s potpourri of nationalities. Add to that she’s nursed all her working life, and with these wonderful, caring people so much in the news over recent months, who could be more topical to home in on?
Not that Anneke shares our enthusiasm. Inherently shy, she prefers to lurk in the shadows, but there are others who see it differently. Her name’s come our way time and time again since her recent retirement as a child nurse specialist.
Anneke’s one of those treasures who’s devoted her 42-year career putting the needs of others many miles ahead of her own.
This low-key Amsterdam-born woman is the type Florence Nightingale would have applauded for the compassion she’s heaped on others; something the nursing founder saw as the cornerstone of professional care.
The teenage Anneke’s career choice was implanted in her bloodline. Her mother was a senior member of the profession.
Growing up in Holland’s official capital city (before anyone argues, The Hague’s its seat of government) her home was immediately behind the famous concert chamber, there wasn’t a canal in sight, the streets were her playground.
Tap into her memory of those days and it’s the annual Queen’s Birthday celebrations that tops her list.
“The monarch’s birthday is very big in the Netherlands. Dutch people are very patriotic to the Crown, always wear orange for these big events.
“I went back for King WillemAlexander’s coronation five years ago and was interviewed by journalists who couldn’t believe I’d come all that way for it but I’ve always been a royalist.”
Anneke’s training was the equivalent of this country’s enrolled nurse. After the two-and-ahalf years ward work that followed she thirsted for adventure.
“I was an only child so it was hard for my parents but I’d heard a lot about New Zealand because so many Dutch people came here after the war so in the end they gave me their blessing.”
On her 1980 arrival, Vogel’s bread founder Hans Klisser, a close friend of her knitwear traveller father, took her under his family’s wing.
Her first posting was Masterton where she had to acquire the maternity and district nursing know-how that hadn’t come her way in the Netherlands.
Maternity colleague Katie Williams (Our People, July 30, 2010) became a close friend.
When she moved to Rotorua in 1982, Anneke visited for a holiday.
“And just stayed. I was blown away by the thermal activity, by the Ma¯ori people, how they lived and thought.”
Rotorua Hospital welcomed her to the geriatric unit.
“My English still wasn’t super duper. There was another Dutch girl there, and the other nurses played a lot of tricks on us because we didn’t know what some things were, which meant we had a lot of laughs.”
What wasn’t so funny was the morning the principal nurse paid a surprise ward visit.
“We were giving the patients their porridge in the day room.