26 October 2022

Enjoying the ‘rollercoaster’ - from nurse to Acting Regional Clinical Director for the South Island

In describing his career, Acting Regional Clinical Director Paul Branks says it’s been “a bit of a rollercoaster”.

But it’s been a rollercoaster that he’s enjoyed, with plenty of variety and movement between roles.

Paul started off working as a mental health nurse in England’s Prison Service, where he climbed the ranks into a senior position leading the health centre of a maximum-security prison in the UK.

But the pull of adventure, the unknown and family in New Zealand drew him back into a nursing position – this time in Aotearoa. Since being in New Zealand he’s worked on the floor as a psychiatric nurse, as a team leader for various teams, a Health Centre Manager and as the Clinical Quality Assurance Advisor for the Te Waipounamu (South Island).

His current role as Acting Regional Clinical Director for the South Island involves monitoring staffing and COVID-19 infections and vaccinations, responding to or investigating queries and overseeing policies and procedures, amongst a myriad of other duties.

Paul says that one of the most gratifying parts of his career at Ara Poutama Aotearoa is the appreciation that he receives from people.

“We’re improving their health and they’re appreciative of that. Sometimes they might not be at the time (for example, if we are trying to wean them off narcotics) but they are grateful when it’s achieved.

It's nice when people come up to you in the community and say, oh, thanks very much for what you did.”

He notes that Hōkai Rangi, Ara Poutama Aotearoa’s strategy for improving outcomes for Māori, aligns well with the approach of the health centre, and the nursing profession more generally.

“As a nurse, it’s thrilling that oranga/wellbeing is at the heart of our strategy. This helps to humanise people in prison and values their experiences, in the hope of assisting them to better wellbeing upon release.

As a profession, we are kaitiaki, we are caregivers. We are guardians – we treat people with respect because if you do that, you get respect back.

Hōkai Rangi makes that approach more open and accessible to all the disciplines that work within the system – it puts it in a manner that everyone can relate to.”

Paul says that for those weighing up a career at Ara Poutama Aotearoa, he encourages them to consider the advantages of a safe working environment, career progression and meaningful work.

“There are so many pathways within Corrections, both within the frontline environment and National Office… It's a good job and it’s a safe job, because you have that custodial support [from Corrections Officers] with you.

It can pull at your heartstrings at times, but that’s what makes it all worth it.”

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