South Taranaki's only nurse practitioner says her free youth health clinics are under-utilised due to a lack of awareness.
Nurse practitioner Marilyn Chittenden hopes to see more people aged 10-26 taking advantage of the free services this year.
She believes a lot of youths don't know the clinics are available.
They also don't realise there is no cost and that she can perform anything from a mental health check to burning a wart, treating an STI or prescribing medication.
"As a nurse practitioner I can provide all the services a young person may access from a GP.
"It's pretty much a little package of care," she said.
Working under several contracts, Mrs Chittenden provides clinics in Hawera, Eltham, Stratford and Patea three days a week.
Her clinics at Ngati Ruanui Health Care, Hawera, are popular but there are generally spaces at Patea Area School, e-Town Eltham, Stratford Teen Parent Unit and Stratford PAC Centre clinics.
She also hosts a clinic at Hawera High School.
Mrs Chittenden said she was trialling a Monday morning clinic at the Taiohi Oranga facilities on Hawera's Regent St, funded by Southcare.
"We're trialling doing it out in the community, which is good because there's access for kids," she said.
"In 2012 we had approximately 1200 referrals, plus 61 mental health assessments."
Mrs Chittenden saw 500 students last year during her lunch-time slots at Hawera High School every Monday.
"It doesn't matter which [medical] practice you belong to or where you go as long as you are aged 10-26," she said.
A public health nurse for 20 years in Patea, she completed her nursing qualification and a batchelor of nursing, a two-year diploma in rural health, post-graduate nursing, and her masters degree.
She began her post-graduate studies in 2004 and qualified as a nurse practitioner in 2010.
Southcare acting general manager Ella Borrows said Mrs Chittenden was doing a great job at the clinic, which provides young patients with greater privacy and confidentiality.
She said they hoped to break down barriers and make it easier for youth to access health care earlier.
"As long as it continues to be sustainable, then it's absolutely something we want to do."
- Taranaki Daily News
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