SONJA ELIA - IMMUNISATION NP
Born and bred in Melbourne, Sonja has been based at a major metropolitan hospital in Melbourne for over 20 years and has worked in immunisation for 14 years.
After graduating as a nurse practitioner in May 2017, Sonja has been working with her patients and doctors, prescribing the necessary immunisations for pre-natal and post-natal care and working closely with the nursing and medical team.
As the first immunisation-specific nurse practitioner in Victoria, Sonja is dedicated to her profession and is proud of the inroads her team are making to offer immunisation services to special risk kids for scheduled and non-scheduled vaccines such as Meningococcal B. When she’s not working as an immunisation NP, Sonja loves spending time with her two teenage boys.
Sonja’s eldest boy is passionate about IT and hopes to explore the digital world as a career when he graduates high school at the end of this year, and her youngest son is in grade 8 and aspires to be a professional tennis player.
Which area are you working in as a nurse practitioner?
As the first registered NP in immunisations in my hospital, I paved the way for my team and I am proud to say there are now others in our team that are studying to become nurse practitioners in the near future. I love what I do and I am so proud to prove the merits of the nurse practitioner role and show the benefits of the qualification to my patients and colleagues on a daily basis.
Being the first specialist NP focused on immunisation in Victoria allowed me to prove the model was a success and allows me to offer great service to my patients and their families. Before becoming an NP I felt there was something missing in the process and feel there is a great demand for nurse practitioners and the holistic service they provide.
As a nurse practitioner specialising in immunisations, I help people make informed decisions about immunisations and help at-risk patients to ensure they get the vaccines and health care they need to reach their health goals.
Can you share a little about the nursing you are providing to patients?
In my role in immunisations at the hospital, my work exposes me to a range of pre-natal, post-natal and vaccine support cases for at-risk patients. I work closely with families during routine immunisation consultations for babies, and I also administer the scheduled and non-scheduled vaccines as required by the community.
At the moment, I am mainly focused on community education and providing the non-scheduled support, advice and prescriptions for vaccines such as Meningococcal B which is a significant area of concern for patients and families. I work to educate and support the community to ensure they understand in detail the role of immunisations and answer any questions they may have. Interestingly, since I have become a registered NP, there has been a 150% increase in the administering of the Meningococcal B vaccine at our hospital, which shows that the community is using the improved service offering that an NP can provide especially in the area of non-scheduled vaccines.
What is unique about your role in the community?
I love my role, and I wouldn’t do anything else, and I find working within the community to share information about immunisations, vaccines and health care is one of my passions.
I am focused on sharing immunisation and vaccine information with patients and families and ensuring they are aware of the benefits of immunisations both scheduled and non-scheduled and take the time to ensure any concerns and questions are addressed to ensure the patient receives the holistic medical care and advice they require. There is so much information about immunisations out in the public arena, and some of this isn’t necessarily correct, so I am focused on ensuring education and awareness is front of mind and venture out to talk to community groups and medical professionals to share the latest information on immunisations and best practice.
What is a typical day for you in your NP role?
Each day is relatively unique, however, I would usually see patients who are booked in for non-scheduled vaccines and also visit a list of patients who are special risk on the wards in the hospital. I see patients that are about to have organ transplants, so I review all immunisations prior to transplant and ensure that they are protected against health issues such as measles, mumps and chicken pox, mainly due to the element of future suppression of their immune system.
There are a significant number of people in our community that are searching for non-scheduled immunisations or are hesitant about vaccines, and I spend my time providing the care, support and information they seek to ensure they are receiving the highest level of health care.
What are you hoping to achieve in your current role as an NP?
Firstly I am in the process of setting up a program for apprehensive immunisation patients to provide immunisations under sedation. The gases are installed, and we are looking to prescribe this process for needle-phobic kids and admit them via our unit. This will offer a solution for children who are afraid of needles and ensure they are adequately vaccinated and proceed.
Secondly, I have a goal to promote the role of nurse practitioner more broadly and particularly in the area of immunisation. There is a high demand for nurse practitioners, and I aim to build the profile and share the fantastic work that is being done in rural, remote and metropolitan areas by NPs. It’s important to me that the community understand the benefits of having access to nurse practitioners and get a deeper understanding of the benefits of the health care we provide.