Q & A with Kerri Nuku

August 2016 Vol. 16 (4)

NZNO's Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku was inspired into nursing as a child by the photo of her mother in her starched white uniform, cap and red cape. Find out about her career that has taken her into midwifery, auditing and appearing before the United Nations.

Kerri NukuIWI | Ngāti Kahungunu/Ngāi Tai
JOB TITLE | Kaiwhakahaere New Zealand Nurses Organisation/Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa

Where and when did you train?

I originally trained as an enrolled nurse at the Hastings Memorial Hospital and graduated as a registered nurse from the Hawke’s Bay Polytechnic in 1991. I later graduated in 1996 from Massey University with a diploma in midwifery.

Other qualifications/professional roles?

I have continued professional studies at Victoria University and more recently at the University of Canberra. I have always had an interest in auditing and risk management, am a member of the Institute of Directors and am a trustee on a number of groups, including the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board Māori Advisory Committee.

When and/or why did you decide to become a nurse?

Ever since I was a young girl I remember a black and white photo of my mother in a starched white uniform with the starched white cap and red cape. I guess I was attracted to the photo without really understanding what a nurse did. I also wanted to be an agricultural advisor but fortunately I made the right choice.

What was your nursing career up to your current position?

After graduating I worked as an RN in maternity services in Hawke’s Bay and eventually, after becoming a midwife, I became the antenatal/outpatients clinic team leader for several years. I was also project manager for a number of projects, including developing a Māori responsiveness framework, developing community midwifery services, and a diabetes antenatal screening trial.

Between 2003 and 2009 I changed direction and became a clinical nurse specialist for sexual health services for Hawke’s Bay District Health Board. At the same time I studied at Victoria University and completed my auditing training that allowed me to audit other services across New Zealand for the Telarc auditing organisation.

I then made the most of my extensive background within the DHB sector and went to work for an independent international research organisation. As the organisation’s New Zealand director I was responsible for staff working across Aotearoa.

In 2011 a colleague and I developed an independent nursing service where I provided oversight until becoming the kaiwhakahaere for NZNO/Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa.

So what is your current job all about?

Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa/NZNO is a member organisation committed to working within a bicultural relationship so the kaiwhakahaere and president (Grant Brookes) are co-governance leaders, which means we co-chair the NZNO Board of Directors and monitor the performance and progress of the organisation in achieving its strategic aims.

As the kaiwhakahaere my role is also to be the voice for Māori members and to advance their issues and support the Māori governance roopu (Te Poari) and the wider Māori membership (Te Runanga).

What do you love most about being a nursing leader?

I really appreciate my job and the opportunities I have had while being in this position. I love challenges and developing strategies to address complex situations. Being a nurse leader representing members keeps you humble and focused on achieving and making the most of opportunities to advance nurses across all the sectors.

What do you love least about being a nursing leader?

The challenges that some of our nurses face are difficult and the demand often outweighs what can reasonably be done. The frustration and slowness of bureaucracy is the most impossible issue to deal with.

If there was a fairy godmother of nursing, what three wishes would you ask to be granted for the New Zealand nursing workforce?

  • Having recently taken the issue of pay parity to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, I would wish for pay parity across all the health sector.
  • That indigenous workforce issues are always on the national and international nursing agenda.
  • To have the courage and resilience to collectively advocate for effective and quality health services.

What do you think are the characteristics of a good leader? And are they intrinsic or can they be learnt?

Matua Amster Reedy always acknowledged that the three attributes of a great leader are that they are unobtrusive, add value, and inspired. Te Poari and I believe this to be true and it is evident in many of our great nursing pioneers.

What do you do to try and keep fit, healthy, happy and balanced?

Anyone that knows me will say that I am not the most physical person and would do almost anything to avoid exercise.

However, when I was young I was a member of the amateur athletics and Harriers group so I like to think I did what I needed to do when I was young and now I can take things easy.

It is my whānau that keep me healthy in spirit and mind, and my husband and I enjoy following their interests. I am also handy with a pair of knitting needles.

Helping keep me sane, busy or on task outside of work are...

With our six children there is always something happening every day after school and every Saturday there is sports. This is a great distraction and always keeps me grounded as a parent.

What is your favourite way to spend a Sunday?

Spending the day with the whānau and if it is raining watching UKTV and Emmerdale Farm.

What is your favourite meal?

Thai green curry (mild).


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