How curiosity led this Waikato nurse to leadership

Curiosity has led nurse Carey Campbell on a pathway to leadership
Hamilton based Carey Campbell is Director of Nursing for Southern Cross Hospitals.

As a young Wintec graduate, Carey Campbell never expected to rise through the ranks to become director of nursing for a network of hospitals across New Zealand.

There were no nurses in Campbell’s immediate family, so her study choice was something of a surprise.

The daughter of the local baker, Campbell grew up in Ngāruawāhia and says she chose to study nursing due to her innate sense of curiosity. 

“I like knowing how things work and how to fix them.  I also wanted to have the knowledge and skills to manage in a crisis. Nurses are fantastic at this. It has been a great career choice.”

She studied a Diploma in Nursing, (now a Bachelor of Nursing) at Wintec,  graduating in 1986.

“I chose to study at Wintec as I could stay living at home which meant one less stress of navigating the flatting scene.  It also meant I still had open access to my dad’s pies and doughnuts which were world famous in Ngāruawāhia back in the day!”

“Wintec had a good balance of practical and academic learning. The friendly, more relaxed vibe was a little less formal than the traditional university scene and that suited me.” 

It has been 12 years since that pivotal moment when she agreed to be the Director of Nursing for Southern Cross Hospitals.

“It wasn’t part of my career plan. In fact, I didn’t actually apply for the role. I was asked if I was interested in applying and before I’d even submitted my CV, I was flown to Wellington for an interview and offered the job.”

Based in Hamilton, Campbell travels the country, checking in on hospitals from Auckland to Invercargill.

“I love a challenge, and with my surgical nursing background, the role suits me down to the ground. I love being able to influence positive change and work with wonderful teams who make a real difference to our patients’ lives.”

As part of Southern Cross’ executive leadership team, her role is to get the best out of nurses and nursing to ensure that patients have the highest standard of care possible. She leads nursing staff’s clinical and professional practice, manages learning and development, and is actively involved in workforce development.

“At Southern Cross Hospitals, we don’t employ doctors. The vast majority of our staff are nurses which makes us a nurse-led organisation. My job is to make sure that the nursing voice is heard at the highest decision-making level of our organisation which can only be good for nursing and for our patients. I also love being part of a progressive organisation that puts all its profits back into the business and the development of our staff.”

This unique operating model has led to a revolutionary project that Campbell is fiercely passionate about – the digitisation of patient notes.

“Part of my job is to change and improve nursing practice across Southern Cross Hospitals. For the last five years I’ve been working on an exciting project that enables nurses and other health professionals to record patient notes electronically. Instead of writing notes using pen and paper, our nurses are now recording patient notes using computers with one hospital documenting vital signs using iPhones. This is a huge development and something to celebrate. Southern Cross is a leader in this area in New Zealand and it’s really exciting to move nursing practice into the digital realm.”

Prior to her current role, Campbell was Clinical Nurse Director at Waikato Hospital and has worked in a wide range of nurse educator and charge nurse roles over her 33-year nursing career.

This year, 2020, is the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. This story is part of a series where nurses and midwives who have graduated from or worked with Wintec tell their stories.

Find out more about studying nursing at Wintec.

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An enviable nursing career for this wannabe spy

Wintec to deliver new nursing and health programmes in Thames and Ōtorohanga

Dreaming big enabled this nurse to open her own GP practice


Year of the Nurse and the Midwife 2020