Handover | Issue 42 - July 2018

Robyn Shearer

Chief executive

Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui

My career in mental health started in the late 80s as I was training to be a comprehensive registered nurse. I worked in my holidays at Oakley and Carrington Hospitals. This experience and my student placements at Ward 10a, Auckland Hospital and Mount Eden Prison – really sparked my interest in psychiatry. I took a year or two (on the advice of many) to gain experience in cardiac, respiratory and general medicine before returning to work in acute mental health inpatient services then quickly moving on to the community. This was a time of great change in mental health – the closure of the large psychiatric hospitals was occurring and the investment in mental health and addiction services was on the rise. A new Mental Health Act was introduced, and I became a Duly Authorised Officer working for an innovative new crisis service at Waitematā DHB. We had a wonderful multi-disciplinary team who prioritised seeing people where their crisis was occurring and then supporting them over a number of hours, days or weeks as their crisis resolved.

From there I took on leadership roles in inpatient services, then eventually district and community. My story from there became roles in management and leadership, from service delivery to developing workforce programmes, policy development and for the last ten years as Chief Executive at Te Pou. Nursing will always be part of my experience and knowledge. It has served me well in so many aspects of what we still do at Te Pou. My training was excellent, and I had good role models and mentors. I grew that experience by professional development, taking responsibility for my learning and then eventually, mentoring and supervising others. 

Our workforce numbers provide evidence that nursing remains one of the solid career options for mental health and addiction – we also see a growing number of nurses moving into disability. The role Te Pou has in leadership for nursing remains important. The career options are many and varied for nursing – but we need to keep promoting why we would want our new graduate nurses and others to come and work in this exciting and challenging area. We need to really consider how we talk about the wonderful and positive aspects of nursing in this ever-developing field. Each and every one of us should consider how we are responsible for growing the passion for a career in nursing. It is the everyday conversations which can lead to someone making a choice in mental health, addiction or disability. 

Just yesterday I was talking to a dear friend who works in adult inpatient settings. She said that many of the older workforce are challenged with change – and that younger nurses are not given the mentoring and opportunities to be leaders. This leads to them feeling not well supported and perhaps leaving without having learned what a wonderful opportunity they have, to make a positive impact on someone’s life during that time of crisis. This is a challenge we must continue to work on together. 

So, this is our final edition of Handover. Like the move we have to make with our workforce, we are also moving to embrace technology to get the word out about our nursing workforce. You will continue to see stories in our e-bulletin and website. We also know that nurses work as part of a wider team – so we will be promoting other roles that work alongside our valuable nursing workforce. Please keep in touch with us to share what is working well for you and also what the pressure points are. We know that there continues to be pressure on our frontline workforce that creates a challenge. This challenge is what we have an opportunity to embrace with new evidence, technology, teamwork and values-based practices.  

Thank you for your support of Handover and Te Pou.  

Ngā mihi nui