For more than 10 years, Sue Bramwell has put her considerable entrepreneurial skills to work for Nurse Maude, partnering commercial enterprise with a charitable imperative. Metropol talks to the dedicated General Manager of Marketing about her love of philanthropy and her dedication to the vital service that has been caring for the community since 1896.
You have enjoyed a decorated career in journalism, marketing, communications and writing books for children, what attracted you to Nurse Maude?
My family will tell you I was very badly designed to provide care (I’m the sort of person who would wander off and read a book in the middle of changing an Elastoplast) but very well suited to find the money for that care to be provided by others. I have always believed that your right to exercise choice and retain independence shouldn’t disappear with age or illness and so does Nurse Maude. Making that work visible to others is a diverse, complex and interesting business.
How challenging can the philanthropic environment be in terms of engaging support and how can people help more?
Working with sponsors, individuals and businesses that really get what we do makes it a whole lot easier. It is because of them we can provide end of life care and support free of charge to our patients and their families. Whether people are donating money, clothing for our hospice shops, furniture, and household goods to Maudes on Trade Me, or sponsoring one of our fleet of little white cars…there’s a whole lot of ways to be part of providing that care to those who need it most. We’ve been caring for the people of Canterbury for more than 120 years now, and we’re an integral part of the community. Thankfully, the community is also an integral part of Nurse Maude.
What are some of the greatest joys in your role?
As someone who is well known as being able to shop to Olympic standard, it has to be opening our seven hospice shops throughout Christchurch. Opening the first and the biggest in Merivale nearly 10 years ago was a heart-stopping moment in terms of calculated risk but it has been incredibly successful from the day it first opened its doors.
The skill, compassion, and sheer commitment the staff and volunteers of Nurse Maude put into their work is also a joy to behold. For many of those we care for we are often the only people they may talk to from week to week. We never forget that.
What would surprise people about Nurse Maude?
Nurse Maude effectively started district nursing in New Zealand. She devoted her life to the poor and sick on the streets of Christchurch and was the driving force behind the registration of nurses. Her legacy is a large and diverse organisation providing nursing in our hospital, hospice and the community, homecare, specialist services such as home dialysis, wound care, school-based nursing and paediatric services as well as founding the New Zealand Institute of Community Health Care for research and development. I live in hope that one day the woman who saved the lives of generations of Cantabrians will join the bronze busts of the Canterbury Heroes outside the Arts Centre.
What is the overarching philosophy of the organisation and how do the team live and breathe it?
Alleviating suffering in our community. It’s not just about providing nursing and homecare, it’s about recognising that with age can come social isolation and profound loneliness. There’s a real sense of loss that comes with increasing dependence on others and the belief of some that their life no longer holds purpose. Everyone needs to matter to someone and they matter to us.
What exciting plans and events are on the horizon for Nurse Maude?
The rebuilding of the Nurse Maude Hospital on McDougall Avenue, opening in September, would have to be one of the biggest in terms of size and financial commitment.
Canterbury has the largest population aged over 75. In less than eight years the number of people aged 85 or more will have doubled.
Many of the frail elderly cared for by Nurse Maude live in reduced circumstances with little or no family support and a bare minimum of income. The Nurse Maude Hospital is where they can live their final months in a safe and compassionate environment, where specialist palliative care is provided at no cost to them.
If there’s one thing Nurse Maude does exceptionally well, it’s providing care that is often considered too hard, too complex and too expensive by other aged care facilities without imposing private charges.