International Year of the Nurse & Midwife: Kerri

Surgical Nurse Director Kerri Cooley exudes warmth, intelligence, energy and passion – a combination that has served her well during her 40-odd years of nursing.

Drawn to nursing because it is a caring profession, Kerri says it wasn’t her first choice.

“I come from a family of teachers and was adamant I wanted to be a vet until a placement at Massey University when I discovered I was too attached to animals, so I chose to care for people instead.” 

Turns out nursing was the perfect fit.

Kerri’s love of people and clinical passion has seen her work across many specialties such as gerontology, surgical, paediatrics, district and public health nursing, but the machinery of the hospital environment kept drawing her back toward hospital placements – her specialty of choice being surgical nursing where she enjoyed 20 years on the shop floor before moving into more senior roles.

Progression up the ranks has been a natural one for the mother of two, where she says new opportunities have presented themselves at the right time. A key member during contingency planning whether that be across industrial actions, upsurge or winter planning, supporting teams and being that conduit for her team is a role, Kerri says, she feels privileged to hold.

“I enjoy the leadership roles I’ve had. I was seconded to my current role as nurse director within surgical which became permanent and I love it. There’s a great balance between keeping that clinical hands-on relationship with the ward, nurses, patients and whānau, but very much being the advocate for our nursing teams and our specialty whilst juggling the hospital system and patient flow challenges.

“I keep fit and healthy to keep up with them all here,” she quips – adding there is always a new challenge and goal to achieve.”

While nursing has evolved over the years with new technology and higher duties, Kerri says the guts of nursing remains the same.

“I love the rapport and trust nurses are able to build with patients and their whānau, in fact I hold special memories of many patients I have nursed over the years.  The bond between nurse and patient is very special.

 “We have great teams working alongside each other all aimed toward ensuring the patient journey is a timely and safe one.  It’s all about our patients and even with all the extra complexity, our patients continue to get absolutely wonderful care, and that’s the heart of nursing really isn’t it.”

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