Nursing leaders are paying tribute to the country’s Chief Nursing Officer Dr Jane O’Malley who is leaving the Ministry of Health in the New Year to take up a new post.

O’Malley, who has been Chief Nursing Officer for seven years, is to become Plunket’s first Chief Nurse in March, in a role reporting to Plunket chief executive Amanda Malu.

O’Malley said it was a coincidence and “unfortunate timing” that her announcement followed shortly after Director General Chai Chuah’s resignation. She added that she had a “great deal of respect for Chai and his vision for the future” and was not leaving because he was leaving. “Sometimes great opportunities come up and you need to grab them with both hands.”

O’Malley said she was very much looking forward to working with the Plunket leadership team on their strategic vision as it was a “perfect fit” with her own health philosophy.

“My belief in the New Zealand Health Strategy – and in particular that we can make better inroads into improving people’s health by paying attention to the early years – is reflected in Plunket’s vision for the first 1000 days of life,” said O’Malley. That it was also a nurse and consumer-led organisation also fitted well.  She said she would bring with her to Plunket a wealth of knowledge about how the machinery of Government worked and how policy was developed.

O’Malley said she had mixed feelings about leaving her current role as she had loved her time at the Ministry. Some of the highlights were the coming into effect in January of the long-awaited Health Practitioners (Replacement of Statutory References to Medical Practitioners) Act – which removes legal barriers to nurses and nurse practitioners working at the top of their scope – plus the development with the Nursing Council and NNO (national nursing organisations) Group of the now three levels of nurse prescribing.  Also the creation of the ACE new graduate job system which meant there was now a database of new graduate job hunters which had helped employ more new graduates as vacancies arose.

“There are lots of good things to celebrate and time really for me to move on to something new,” said O’Malley.

She said once it was known in the New Year about the appointment of an acting Director General she would be keen to ensure that the Chief Nursing Office position remained at the executive level of the Ministry and reported to the Director General.

“Because nursing is the largest workforce and it is, I believe, the workforce that if better utilised will take us into the mid-Century.  So we need a strong leader at the top,” said O’Malley.

Plunket chief executive Amanda Malu said the appointment to O’Malley to the new role recognised the importance of the nursing profession to Plunket.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Chief Executive Memo Musa acknowledged the hard work Chief Nursing Officer Jane O’Malley had done to increase nursing input into Ministry of Health policy and congratulated her on her new appointment.

Musa said  that during Jane’s seven years of service she had overseen an increase of resources at the Ministry to ensure the advice from the nursing profession is effective and timely.

“We want to see more nurses at the top table of policy discussion and development, and there is still more to do to make sure nursing is fully utilised to its full scope in order to care for people, whānau and communities and improve health outcomes,” Musa said.

“We look forward to working with Jane in her role at Plunket as she works to advance and promote the hard work nurses do in their delivery of world class nursing services to mums, whanau and babies.”

Professor Jenny Carryer, executive director of the College of Nurses said O’Malley had been instrumental in ensuring nursing’s contribution to health policy was stronger than it had been “for a long time”.

“The size and positioning of the Office of the Chief Nursing Officer under her leadership has finally been positioned in a way that enables appropriately significant input,” said Carryer.  “Jane has worked so hard across so many fronts and her contribution has been huge.  Her passion for child health will be well matched in her new position and the College of Nurses wishes her well.”

O’Malley was the director of nursing for the West Coast District Health Board when she was appointed to the Ministry of Health role – then called Chief Nurse – in 2010.  She had also been a president of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (from 2001-2005) and is a former clinical nurse manager and nursing academic.


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