New nursing chief eyes empowerment

Monday May 20, 2019 Written by Published in National
Chief of nursing Mary Kata. 19051505 Chief of nursing Mary Kata. 19051505

Ministry of Health’s new chief of nursing hopes to provide a strong nursing leadership team that will foster a positive environment for all in the profession.


Mary Kata believes this should help every nurse feel valued, empowered, renewed and rejuvenated knowing that they play an important role in providing high quality services to the people and community.

Kata started nursing in 1991, and says her nursing journey has been long and fruitful.

She said she has worked in the Cook Islands since then but as someone who always wanted to move with time and got bored easily, she decided to move to New Zealand.

In New Zealand she pursued her Bachelor of Nursing, graduating in 2005.

She then returned to Rarotonga and continued working in the outpatient and surgical wards for some years. But as most nurses were going further with their training, Kata decided to pursue her Masters programme in 2010.

“Only a few of us had their Masters at the time and I became the fourth one to hold a Masters. I returned in 2011 but Dad was sick and elderly in New Zealand, and mum already passed away in 2008, so I thought this was an opportunity for me to go back to and do work in that context,” Kata said.

Kata later worked in the cardiothoracic surgical unit at the Auckland City Hospital from 2012-2015.

“After four years I thought ‘wow, I think I have done my term here’, so I decided ‘Ok I will put myself in the bureau of nursing-casual,  which means you can work with all the medical specialities and the surgical specialities.”

She said she also worked part time in a private hospital in Auckland.

“The reason I put myself in the bureau is because I thought one day I was going to return home and will bring back my skills and knowledge to our own nursing workforce. Across the board was my way of learning.”

She said it was in 2015 that they formed a Cook Islands Nursing Association in New Zealand and brought together Cook Island nurses who were born and raised in New Zealand.

“Most of the Cook Island nurses are scattered and they were born and raised in NZ. They did not know their culture or where they came from, their roots are different. So we established our nursing association and connected all our Cook Island nurses and introduce them to our community there.”

She said during her time at the bureau she visited Australia every three months and did around six weeks of nursing in rural areas.

“I did not want to go into the cities but wanted to be in an isolated place similar to our environment here (CI). From 2015 to 2018 I had been all over Queensland, Tasmania in remote areas. It’s amazing. My eyes opened to new a culture of people, different ways of doing and knowing things and meeting indigenous people from across the board. And it made me miss my people.”

Kata said it made her realise that it was time to come home and when the quality manager role was vacant last year, she applied.

“Every time I came home some of my nursing colleagues would ask ‘Mary when are you coming home to help?’ That calling has been with me always, that one day when I return I better make sure I am fully equipped and take up the challenge of teaching what I have learnt overseas.”

She said it felt good to be back on the islands and encourages all nurses to not get comfortable in one place but to go out and explore the world, gain the experience and return home to serve their people.

“It’s all about our nursing leaders; empowering and supporting nurses to work to the level of their expertise and training, and to adapt to changing models of care; the development of the nursing workforce so that nurses are equipped for not only today, but for the challenges facing healthcare in the future; and committed to supporting the safest practice possible with a focus on patient safety.”

“They have been neglected for so long. I think it’s about time we look after our nurses in terms of giving them the opportunity to voice their opinions and see where we can source solutions moving forward,” Kata added.

She is currently pursuing her studies in Professional Practice Masters in Pacific Health. Kata took up her new role earlier this month.   

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