Q&A with Jo Goodhew

1 December 2012

Check out what nursing skill that former nurse and associate health minister Jo Goodhew think has helped her political life.

Job Title: Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Senior Citizens, Women’s Affairs and Associate Minister of Health

Q Where and when did you train?

A I qualified RGON at Timaru Hospital in 1982.

Q Other qualifications/professional nursing roles and honours?

A BN from Otago Polytechnic 1995 (distance learning).

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

A My mother was a karitane nurse and great-aunt and cousin registered nurses, but it was actually a last-minute decision when I decided not to go to university. It was a decision I never regretted for one minute.

Q What was your nursing career before entering politics?

A After finishing my training, I worked in a geriatric ward in Timaru hospital and then moved to Dunedin where I worked in neurosurgery/neurology until travelling overseas. While in the UK, I did agency nursing in private homes and some private hospitals in London. On my return, I went back to the same neuro ward in Dunedin followed by acute orthopaedics. I then shifted to Napier Hospital and worked in the general surgery and gynaecology wards. After getting married I returned south working at surgical wards in Timaru Hospital before leaving to spend 11 years practice nursing.

I left nursing in 1998 and was working in crime prevention prior to campaigning for election in 2005.

Q Share a moment when you felt particularly proud to be a nurse.

A I was privileged to have many moments when I felt proud to be a nurse. The first time I delivered a baby, albeit I was very carefully assisted and supervised. The privilege of nursing patients through their final days. The time when I played my role in nursing sick young children back to health. The times when I worked in the special care unit in neurosurgery in Dunedin, challenging, but rewarding work.

Q Briefly outline your current role and responsibilities.,

A The first three ministries are probably self-explanatory. As Associate Minister of Health I have delegated authority for: public health, aged care, certification of healthcare services (Health Cert), and oversight of Health and Disability (Safety) Act; Health Quality and Safety Commission; Health Promotion Agency; rural health; and assistance with primary healthcare policy and implementation.

Q Was nursing a good grounding for your subsequent political career? If so, what nursing skills and experience were the most useful?

A Trying to understand the issue an individual or group is dealing with requires the ability to listen and care about people. Nurses need excellent communication skills, as do politicians.

Q Do you still consider yourself a nurse? And if so, how does this influence your work as a politician?

A I think my nursing career was such a significant part of my life, therefore, I will always think a bit like a nurse. Caring about the plight of constituents and looking for ways to make the lives of individuals or many better, is a similar task for nurses and politicians. The difference is the “public” nature of the politician’s life and work.

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

A Good leaders need great communication skills, determination, vision and courage. Some of these characteristics are intrinsic but can be further developed; some are learned.

Q What advice would you give to a nurse wanting to follow in your footsteps and enter politics?

A No reason why not, but you will need patience, determination and loads of energy (and a thick skin!).

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

A I try to exercise at least five times per week and try to eat a healthy diet (and fail sometimes!). I put time aside in my diary for family and friends as those relationships are very important to me.

Q What is your favourite way to spend a Sunday?

A Sunny day, long walk, brunch with family and/or friends, time reading for pleasure, or a movie.

Q What are three of your favourite movies of all time?

A Shrek, Out of Africa and Gloomy Sunday.

Q What is number one on your ‘bucket list’ of things to do?

A See the Lipizzaner horses at the Spanish riding school in Vienna.