Ask Kate Phillips if she enjoys nursing and the answer comes in one word, “passionately”.
The Hamilton enrolled nurse doesn’t even call what she does a job, to her it is a vocation something she feels privileged to be doing four days a week at Waikato Hospital.
In the 36 years she’s been at the hospital – off and on given she had two daughters – Kate describes the delight she gets out of working with families and sharing her knowledge with them.
“Nursing is a great career. Male or female, it doesn’t matter. Shift work does put some off but you can make it work around families.
“There is just such a variety. Hospital or community based, occupational health, general practice, anything really.
“There are so many (other) things nurses can do with their training. You can go into management, do your Masters, whatever you want. Nurses have to be lateral thinkers and have common sense and that is what holds them in good stead,” she says.
Enrolled nurses, formerly called community nurses when Kate finished her training, work under the direction and delegation of a registered nurse to deliver nursing care and health education in home, community, residential care and hospital settings.
The difference between the two is the length of time spent training. Enrolled nurse training is now an 18-month diploma course at polytechnics while registered nurses train for three years, also at polytechnics, and then spend a year having practical experience in a health setting.
There have been many changes over the years for enrolled nurses. On 31 May 2010, the scope of practice for enrolled nurses and nurse assistants changed. The new scope of practice enables enrolled nurses to make a broader contribution to health services and give greater support to registered nurses.
Kate did have opportunities to become a registered nurse but babies, hesitancy about mastering computer technology and the hands on nature of the role means she is proud to call herself an enrolled nurse.
She wonders though about the training at polytechnics simply because she remembers with great fondness the training and living together on site. At Waikato Hospital it was in the Hockin Building, now home to Waikato District Health Board’s corporate office.
“It was team bonding. After that we knew each other. We got rotated around the hospital every six months – medical, surgical, basics and then specialities.”
For Kate it was paediatrics – caring for children – that became her great love. The speciality of paediatric orthopaedics appealed most of all and she considers it a career highlight to have worked alongside the late Dr David Clews, who died in 2007.
“He was a wonderful man. He was such a visionary. His passion rubbed off on other people.”
In recent years, Kate has worked in the Waikids surgical ward one day a week and three days in Waikids children’s clinic.
“We have contact with 180-200 children in a week. We like to make the hospital system run smoothly for our families.”
Out of work she spends a lot of time with her family, particularly her two grandsons aged 2 and 3.
She is confident she has a good many years nursing left in her. So what about that ageing nursing workforce? She considers she has just as much to contribute now as she did in her 20s.
“As a team member, the knowledge and experience gained over the years allows me to use this in my practice and to share with my colleagues.
“I see the young nurses coming out from Wintec. There are some amazing good focussed young nurses coming through.
“Working in a hospital teaches them so much. Most want to come and work in a hospital setting to expand and consolidate exactly what they’ve learned and then, with the experience gained, make decisions for the future.”
Kate enjoys the multi-cultural nature of the nursing workforce too.
“You learn so much about other cultures,” she says.
But in the end Kate is still an enrolled nurse all these years later because she wants to help people, particularly young people.
“There isn’t a day where I ever regret becoming a nurse,” she says.
- International Nurses Day is on Monday 12 May.