Published Tuesday 12 Mar 2024

Meet CNS and part-time Hobbit, Clare

Clare Odell is a nursing superstar and a movie star, having led an exciting career in nursing and dipping her toes into Hollywood waters. While making improvements for vascular access across Capital, Coast and Hutt Valley, Clare also worked on blockbusters including The Hobbit trilogy.

For International Women’s Day, we caught up with her to learn how she manages to juggle many hats.


Tell us about your role.

“I'm a Clinical Nurse Specialist for vascular access and IV related therapies at Wellington Regional Hospital. I manage the Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) service which inserts central lines into people. I look after a team of about seven but it's also a shared role with Greg Lines, who is an amazing wealth of knowledge that I couldn’t function without. We manage IV therapies within the hospital; everything related to IV in terms of procurement, managing all central lines, offering advice to teams about what lines patients require. It's a lot.

We also teach and have just finished reinstating a PICC service and training new inserters at Hutt Hospital.  With the joining of districts, Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora has allowed us to collaborate with our colleagues at Hutt Hospital, Kenepuru Community Hospital and Wairarapa Hospital to allow us to provide support and feel supported in an area which is highly specialised.”


Why did you choose a career in healthcare?  

“I wasn't a nurse from the get-go, I worked in insurance for years then I travelled around for a few years. At 27, I decided that I wanted to be a nurse. I was living in London, working in a bar and I just suddenly decided that nursing was what I wanted to do; I jumped on a plane and came home within two weeks and started nursing straight away.”


What do you love most about your role?

“We make a big difference to the patients that we deal with. I like the patient interaction. These are people at their absolute worst, they're most vulnerable and if we can come along and make their day a little easier by inserting their lines so they can get their therapy or managing their lines so that they can get on with it and hopefully get home, then that's the biggest draw card for me.


What's your biggest work achievement?  

“I think how far we've come in this service; I started in Vascular Access nine years ago and it was quite a small service. We inserted PICCs and did the odd peripheral line. Now we have grown, and more line management has been incorporated into the service. It used to just be a PICC service and somebody else had the role of the IV therapies, so we’ve incorporated both and brought the knowledge together so that you can get a better outcome for your patient.  

We've grown heaps. I've brought in some products and I'm proud that they are helping maintain our catheters. There's been a lot of change.”


And you see the benefit of bringing all these related areas together?

“Yeah. They used to be quite separate, whereas now because I'm doing the IV therapies as well as PICC, I can bring the two together and then work out that we need this or that product.  

I brought in a product called KiteLock, which is a catheter lock. It's basically a solution that helps maintain the patency of the line, but it took me two years to get it in here. It's quite new in New Zealand, but it's amazing and its doing wonders for our vulnerable patients where we've constantly had line replacements. These are people that live at home with a central device and have done so for years, and they're on home nutrition. We used to go through catheters on them all the time and these people don't have an infinite number of catheters, you can't just keep replacing them because the veins deteriorate. But when we've brought in KiteLock, these patients have not had catheter replacements since February last year.  

It's made a huge difference to these people who are so vulnerable. We're using it for quite a few of our other patients, our oncology, our haematology, all the vulnerable ones. I'm proud of it because it's making a big difference.”


Tell us about working on The Hobbit.  

“Basically, because I'm four foot ten and quite athletic, I signed up to be an extra in The Hobbit movies. A colleague was a major fan and he said they were doing a cattle call over at the dance centre. I rocked up there and they took your height, took your measurements, filled out a whole lot of paperwork, and I was prepared for them to cut or dye my hair and all these other things, and they rang me back and said we want you to do a three-day workshop. I took three days off work, and I had to do it with 40 other people my size, which was amazing.  It was three days of stunt work, acting, and mimicking, and they chose fourteen of us at the end of that. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Fast forward, they wanted me on board full time for the next two years! I had three young kids to raise at the time; I was still breastfeeding my youngest. Luckily my husband said he would take leave without pay from his job to raise the kids full time whilst I went off. 

It was full on, fourteen-hour days, but I loved it because I'd go to work, dress up in whatever role I was playing for the day and find it really easy because there was no responsibility on me, just a bit of pressure on set.

I totally enjoyed it, it was an amazing experience and I ended up getting work after that. 

We did seven weeks location, so we travelled around for seven weeks. For a normal movie, the thing you’re doing usually takes two or three weeks, and filming is a couple of months, but The Hobbit was three movies being filmed all at the same time. It was filmed all in a different order so sometimes I wouldn’t even know what movie I’d be filming for!  

I was mainly James Nesbitt's body double, who played Bofur. He’s a lovely man and would call me “Darlin Clare!” It was fun; you'd be sitting in the lunch tent, with people dressed as horrendous, scary creatures talking about their kids and who's doing what with play dates.

There were some challenges; costumes are super heavy, often difficult to manoeuvre and sometimes visibility was challenging but you do your best to get the shot.  The crew are always amazing and would do everything they could to make you as comfortable as possible.

My three teenage sons despise watching movies with me now.  Apparently I ruin the magic as I outwardly ponder the comfort or visibility of the actor’s costumes or how I know a particular cast member.  I’m usually told to “be quiet or get out!” I also want to read all the credits much to my families annoyance. 

I’ve worked on Krampis playing an evil elf as well the Amazon Prime series Ring of Power.  I love this work but I’m getting a bit long in the tooth now.  Stunts aren’t easy and the injury rate is high, but if I was offered more work, I’d definitely jump at the chance.  It’s a surreal magical industry! 

I’ll always return to nursing though, because that is where my heart is.”


What does nursing and being a woman working in healthcare mean to you?  

“I think it's changing. It's evolving a lot, and it still is, and it always will. We have come a long way even in the 20 years I have been nursing, but we still have a long way to go. 

Other than pay parity, we are fortunate in this country that there is less of a hierarchy between doctors and nurses/males and females in our interactions. We should all feel comfortable in questioning teams when required, which doesn’t happen overseas so we should feel grateful for that.

I also love that all types of people are becoming nurses now which was not so when I started. I love the staff diversity whether it’s different sexes or ethnicities. Everybody is represented and coming together to achieve that same goal; to care for our patients as best we can despite the stress and exhaustion.

I think it’s nice to pause and appreciate the effort nurses put in no matter who you are, as well as the journey we go through in this career.  It’s not the sort of job that you can just go home and forget about. I can't switch it off. I just want to help patients and I want their journey to be as smooth as possible or to make one thing for them a little bit easier.”