Waikato cancer centre nurse named best of the year

Waikato Regional Cancer Centre clinical nurse specialist and Wintec postgraduate student Ellyn Proffit has been named Nurse of the Year by the Waikato District Health Board.

The award is announced annually by the Waikato DHB and was part of International Nurses Day which took place earlier this month.

“It just doesn’t feel real,” Ellyn says. “The response I’ve had from people has been overwhelming.  I even had the woman who helped birth me and my twin sister send me a message of congratulations!”

Ellyn’s role at Waikato Hospital is to support, advocate for and educate young adults living with cancer across the Midland region.

“I see it as an honour and a privilege to be a nurse. You get to help people when they’re at their most vulnerable. They will often share their deepest thoughts with you so you’re privy to a lot of things that people normally wouldn’t express,” she says.

"Cancer hits all walks of life and it can be a really scary time for these young people. My job isn’t just about helping people with their physical needs it’s also about being there for them emotionally and psychologically. I feel like I’m making a real difference in people’s lives.”

Waikato District Health Board’s Director of Nursing, Sue Hayward, has been particularly impressed with Ellyn.

"Ellyn has quietly and competently, while using her skills, worked with her patient population ensuring they and their families are as engaged as possible with their health journey. She seeks direction from this group so as to improve how services and care is delivered.

“In a world where the focus on adults can take over, she presents and represents the needs of this group and their families extremely well."

Ellyn completed Wintec’s Bachelor of Nursing 20 years ago as part of the country’s first Tihei Mauri Ora class – a study stream of the nursing degree offered to Maori and Pasifika students. It provides a culturally supportive environment and integrates areas of knowledge from both the western and Maori worlds.

She’s now back at Wintec completing her Master of Nursing.

Ellyn says that if it wasn’t for the supportive family environment that the Tihei Mauri Ora stream provided 20 years ago, she wouldn’t have gotten through the programme and be where she is today.

“It was such a supportive environment that set me up for what has been a versatile and rewarding career, and the continued support I get now from the Wintec nursing department while I complete my Masters is so valuable,” she says.

Alongside her nursing role and full-time study at Wintec, Ellyn has spent the last 18 years volunteering with her twin sister at Camp Quality, a children’s camp for 5 – 16 year olds living with cancer. She’s also a strong supporter of Canteen as a volunteer for the past nine years.

Our Stories