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Retirement of Director of Nursing, Mental Health Addictions and Intellectual Disability

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Heather Casey, Director of Nursing, Mental Health Addictions and Intellectual Disability, retires from Te Whatu Ora Southern this week.

Heather has been working as a Registered Nurse for over 30 years, the last 20 years mainly in professional leadership roles at Te Whatu Ora Southern and its predecessors.

“Heather will be sadly missed,” says Te Whatu Ora Southern Chief Nursing Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Jane Wilson.

“Heather has worked tirelessly in mental health, addiction and intellectual disability (MHAID) services, and during her time with us, she has led and supported many initiatives locally and nationally.

“She has been instrumental in growing Nurse Practitioners (NP) across the Southern district having set up and chaired the inaugural Nurse Practitioner Steering Group and supporting many nurses to reach NP status.”

Heather’s advocacy and support for advancing nursing practice and career development has also resulted in her work being recognised at a national level having received two significant awards in recent years.  In 2018 Heather received an Otago Polytechnic Distinguished Alumni Award and in 2019 an award for ‘exceptional contribution to Mental Health Services in NZ’ at the Mental Health Awards of Australia and New Zealand.  

As well as being the Director of Nursing for MHAID services, Heather has also held a part time secondment with the Health Quality and Safety Commission (HQSC) on the Mental Health and Addiction (MHA) quality improvement programme; working to improve the quality and safety of mental health and addiction services and the experience of care for consumers across New Zealand.

Heather believes the main changes over the years that have made a significant difference to mental health service delivery to be:

  • The introduction of the 1992 Mental Health Act which had much more of a focus on ensuring peoples human rights were at the forefront of care and treatment.
  • The 1996 Inquiry into Mental Health Services – commonly known as the “Mason Report’ which led to significant investment and development of a wide range of services
  • The introduction of New Graduate Entry into Specialist Practice programme. This programme ensured that nurses were attracted into Mental Health and well supported as they developed the specialist knowledge and skills required to work with people experiencing a mental health crisis.
  • The increased availability of Post Graduate Education has ensured that nurses used their critical thinking abilities and were knowledgeable and skilled in the most contemporary mental health nursing practices.
  • The focus on all nurses identifying and addressing the physical and psychological health needs of people they are seeing.

Heather says nurses make a significant difference to people’s experiences of health and illness. “Nurses have a broad scope of practice and it is essential that they have the support to practice in a way that meets people’s needs.

“I have had an amazing career as a registered nurse and despite practising in an area that is very much viewed within the social and political context of the time and facing many challenges, I have never had a dull day in all these years.  I always encourage nurses to practice in mental health as it is hugely rewarding and always interesting.”

Heather plans to have an active retirement, spend more time with her grandchildren, and travel extensively.