I work in the Ministry of Health as the Chief Nurse.
I didn’t plan to be the Chief Nurse, rather, I came to it as a natural progression as part of an interesting career beginning in the first ever nursing class at Christchurch polytechnic in 1973.
Since then I have worked in medical, surgical and mental health adult nursing as a staff nurse, charge nurse, clinical tutor, researcher, academic and a Director of Nursing and Midwifery. I pursued part-time study gaining a Bachelor’s degree from Massey University; a Master’s Degree from New York University and a PhD from Victoria University of Wellington
In my Ministry role, I report to the Director General of Health and provide clinical leadership and advice as part of the Ministry’s Executive Leadership Team.
The role of the Office of the Chief Nurse is to:
- Provide advice on nursing to the Minister of Health and the Ministry.
- Work with colleagues to develop, implement and evaluate health strategy in support of the Government's priorities and ensuring safe stewardship and sustainability of the health system.
- Provide nursing leadership by working closely with nurse leaders and other health and social sector leaders and with my Chief Nurse colleagues in the South Pacific and Australia.
My job means I meet with many people across the Ministry and the sector to keep abreast of events and developments.
I think it’s vitally important that nursing can be the best it can be – because when nurses are supported to reach their fullest potential, it helps the health of New Zealanders.
The strategy for nursing has to be based on evidence, nationally agreed, and with engagement and support from nurses, and other leaders in the sector. This is an important part of my role and the role of the Senior Advisors in my office.
It may sound very different from clinical nursing, but in fact we employ the same process as you do; assessment, diagnosis, planning and evaluation. The difference is that we’re applying it to the whole or large parts of the sector rather than to the client, whanau or community. For example, when we are developing a particular piece of policy, we first engage in reconnaissance, research, and critical analysis of the topic. Importantly we engage with the sector in order to be clearer about a diagnosis of the problem or the solution that allows development of advice on policy and how it might be implemented. Achieving that requires negotiation, communication and support of innovation. To do this you need to have a good grasp of legislation, politics, and the social determinants of health. You have to be able to think critically, read, listen, observe, analyse, develop advice, speak confidently and write well.
You can read more about nursing at the MOH on http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/nursing/nursing-about-us/chief-nurse
If you were thinking about a career in nursing in the Ministry of Health it would be desirable to have, a broad experience in clinical, leadership, management and governance at multiple levels of the system. Post graduate education is essential.
Of course most of you are reading this are at the start of your careers. In 1975 I was in the same position as you, and about to embark on what has been a truly rewarding journey. Nurses are vital in caring for the health of the people of New Zealand. Thank you for choosing nursing as a career.