Published Monday 13 May 2024

As part of International Nurses Day (Sunday 12 May), we feature Nursing Director Kym Park.

Kym is Director of Nursing at Mental Health, Addiction and Intellectual Disability Services (MHAIDS) across Capital, Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa. She’s had this role for nearly three years, adding to 30+ years of service as a nurse in the mental health area. We caught up with Kym to learn more about her role and what International Nurses Day means to her.  

Why did you choose a career in healthcare?
I always wanted to be a nurse even as a kid. However, I didn't always want to be a mental health nurse.

How did your journey start out?I’m comprehensive trained, meaning I went to polytech just as hospital-based training was transitioning to polytech-based training - I just missed out on the hospital-based training. There used to be a bursary and bonding scheme - I received the bursary, so therefore was bonded and got sent to work at Porirua Hospital which was the big psychiatric institution at the time. I never imagined I’d still be in mental health services 30 odd years later but I love it!

What is it like working in the MHAIDS area?
I think it's one of the most privileged areas of nursing. We get to hear people's stories, to connect and have therapeutic relationships with them. It's a place where you can be curious and learn every single day. A lot of what we do in mental health nursing is about our communication skills, our engagement and development of therapeutic relationships, our clinical reasoning skills and the way we gather information - using evidenced-based practice to help people understand and explore what’s going on for them and to consider options to progress.

Nursing is an area of healthcare where we’re absolutely looking at people holistically – this includes psychosocial, psychological and physical health. As nurses, we're the ones who bring all that together and try to make sense of it with people to help them recover, grow and live good lives.

What does a typical day look like in your role?Oh my goodness, I don't think any two days are the same! In this role, it’s very much about ensuring the people who use our services have a positive experience by looking at:

  • what direction the services need to go in
  • what activities and actions we need to be carrying out
  • how we grow and develop our workforce
  • how we ensure we've got enough workforce
  • how we make sure we've got the right training in place and the right supports for people to be successful.

What do you love most about your role?Connecting with staff and seeing staff stretch themselves to achieve things and be better than I thought they could be.

What is the achievement you’re most proud of?
I'm really proud of recently putting forward a case for an additional associate director of nursing, so we now have two of these roles, and also to be able to expand our nurse education team.

The reason I'm most proud of those two things is that we've now got the capacity to fully support our new entry nurses so they settle into the start of their careers more smoothly, as well as clinical nurse specialists and nurse educators in a way they can provide great support to their staff.

What would you say to someone who wants to start a career in nursing in the mental health area?Go for it. Be inquisitive, be friendly and be prepared to ask why - but absolutely go for it and then take up every single opportunity you're given to learn and grow.

What does International Nurses Day mean to you?
It gives us an opportunity to pause, reflect and celebrate what our nurses do. Our nurses and mental health support workers are so focused, busy and committed to their jobs that often they forget to think about the amazing stuff they’re doing on a daily basis to support people.

What are your hopes for the future of nursing?
I hope our:

  • vacancy rate will diminish
  • nurses are acknowledged for their practice by being on professional development and recognition programmes (PDRP) at proficient and expert levels
  • mental health support workers have done merit steps and completed papers
  • enrolled nurses are on PDRP
  • people feel appreciated and passionate about the work they do.

I think it's an incredible privilege to have a role which supports an amazing workforce and be working in a fantastic multidisciplinary team within MHAIDS, as part of senior leadership, where we've got incredible support from our managers, Executive Director, Executive Clinical Director, Allied Health and Medical Directors who all really value nursing.

Go here for the full story about International Nurses Day, as well as International Day of the Midwife which was held on Sunday 5 May.