New Chief Nurse And Midwifery Officer For Northland DHB
Returning to Whangarei has allowed Northland DHB's new chief nurse and midwifery officer, Maree Sheard the opportunity to come home to where she was schooled and qualified as a registered nurse.
Her extensive career has included over twenty years serving as a Nursing Officer in the Army. She was deployed to East Timor as a flight nurse and later to Afghanistan with the Defence Force's Provincial Reconstruction Team and held a range of clinical and leadership appointments, culminating in her promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel to take up the role of Director of Nursing Services.
After leaving the military, Maree was seconded to Whanganui DHB for a year, then went on to work as their associate director of nursing for Patient Safety and Service Quality. In 2019, she left to complete her PhD, where she looked at how military nurses navigate professional accountabilities and role expectations.
Maree said she has gathered from her research and experience with nurses in the military and both Whanganui and Northland DHBs that the team around nurses and their education helps to optimise their potential.
"The types of people who are nurses have a philosophy in life to care – not to meet budgets or organisational strategy. I thought nurses in the military would have assimilated some of the combat ideologies. But they don't - those that want to be soldiers leave and become soldiers."
Maree said she sees a need to build on that because it does make nurses particularly vulnerable to burnout, and someone needs to be looking out for them. She is excited about her new role and has already set a range of goals to achieve.
The recruitment issue sits high on her list. She plans to work with other agencies to help break down barriers, to ensure nursing is encouraged as a profession.
"We need to get out into schools and show students that nursing is a viable career for Northlanders both in the towns and rural areas. Some schools in Northland are not currently offering subjects that enable students to get into health sciences, and I want to help with the health professions' current focus on that. In 10 or 20 years, we want those students working for us. So, we need to concentrate on that early strategy and get nurses who go further afield to study to come home to work. We also need to be educating and hiring nurses that represent the population."
Retaining staff is another of her priorities. She believes the key to this lies in good leadership and encouraging and maintaining professional development.
"If we invigorate our nursing leadership to be the kind of leaders staff want to work for, our nurses will be satisfied, engaged and challenged."
Maree is encouraged and supportive of both Northland DHBs affirmative action strategy and the work going into patient safety and quality. She is excited about helping to develop strategies that lead to patients getting good quality care.
Maree still holds an honorary role as Colonel Commandant of the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps, the Chief of Army's advisor for nursing professional matters. However, she no longer has to don a pack and push herself to the limit physically, so she has been tackling some of the local walking tracks to reorientate herself to Northland while making the most of being able to take her time and enjoy the view.