Nurse practitioner numbers are slowly but surely growing across the country, but the nurse practitioner pathway into mental health is still developing. Jam says the changes that could occur with more nurse practitioners working in this area would be substantial for children, adolescents, and their families.
“There’s a huge number of referrals to CAMHS – the waitlist is long with limited professionals available, clearly indicating a great need for this service. More nurse practitioners in this area can build a bridge between primary health care, secondary and tertiary services, and help reduce access disparities, especially for high-risk populations, to enable faster diagnoses and streamlined treatments,” she says.
Nurse practitioners fulfil a vital space in the healthcare system, with their advanced skills and knowledge in nursing and medicine allowing them to diagnose, prescribe medications, and ensure quality care. The care provided by nurse practitioners can include comprehensive assessments, diagnostic clarification, medication review, risk assessment and safety planning, health promotion, recovery planning, and whānau inclusive care.
Jam says she considers nurse practitioners as ‘super nurses’ who are leaders and inspirations as they continue to strive to improve health outcomes.
“When I found out what a nurse practitioner was, I knew I wanted to become a ‘super nurse’ too. I’m excited to have the opportunity to work as a nurse practitioner intern within two areas of nursing practice I’m passionate about – child health and mental health.”
For the 35-year-old, her journey to nurse practitioner intern has been one of persistence and determination. Jam began a Bachelor of Nursing in the Philippines but took a pause when she and her family immigrated to Aotearoa New Zealand in 2005.
After giving birth to her son, Jam decided to change from the Bachelor of Dance she’d started working towards following her arrival in New Zealand and return to her Bachelor of Nursing. She says it was her son who made her realise she wanted to resume pursuing her true calling of nursing to make a difference in the lives of others.
“My son inspired me to not give up and to work hard to achieve my dream. I did everything for him.”
After qualifying, Jam went on to work at Plunket then Starship Community, growing her knowledge and skills in child health, which gave her the courage to start the nurse practitioner pathway and a Master of Nursing. Life threw a few curve balls which saw Jam having to pause her study again to prioritise her children and her own mental health and wellbeing.
It was during this time that Jam found a role in maternal health supporting pregnant women, new mums, and their families. She says this helped her learn a lot about mental health.
“Mental health nursing gave me an opportunity to learn more about myself, to grow and become a better nurse, mum, and person.”
With a new passion for mental health, Jam began working at Waitematā District Health Board, first as an adult acute mental health nurse, then a maternal mental health nurse, and now as a child and adolescent mental health nurse practitioner intern. She says her experiences have helped shape her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner.
“I have worked with many amazing nurses in my journey, and they inspire me to stay passionate about what I do and to continue growing and learning so I can be the best nurse I can for the children and families I see. Often, those who come and see us in the mental health setting are at the lowest part of their lives. My role includes carrying and holding hope for them – to remind them there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Jam is looking forward to becoming a qualified nurse practitioner and says she’s proud to be on this journey with Massey.
“Massey has given me inspirational and extremely skilled nurse educators and teachers, as well as amazing academic support and library and student support. It took me seven years to complete my master’s degree, and I am so impressed at how understanding, accommodating, and supportive Massy is for students who are going through personal struggles.”
While considering a doctorate in the future, Jam is taking it one step at a time and says this journey, while challenging, is worth it.
“Nursing is a calling and it’s not for everyone. But if you’re interested, talk to professionals across different areas of nursing to understand what their role is and see if it’s the right career for you. It’s not always easy, especially with the current work conditions, but we continue to work hard for change because our community, our children and young people, and the families of New Zealand need us. Just don’t forget to look after yourself along the way.”
For nurse practitioner intern Nicole Broodkoorn, Ngāpuhi, her nursing journey has always been a way to lead her back home to make a difference in her community.
Catherine Tu'akalau is Wellington's first Pacific Nurse Practitioner and one of only a handful in Aotearoa New Zealand specialising in child health.
The road to become a mātangi tapuhi (nurse practitioner) has been a long but exceptional one for Kate Te Pou, spanning more than two decades.
Each year around one in five New Zealanders experiences mental illness or significant mental distress, and between 50 and 80 per cent of New Zealanders will experience mental distress or addiction challenges, or both, in their lifetime. The role that mental health nurses play in caring for these people should not be overlooked.