Q & A with Professor Annette Huntington

June 2016 Vol. 16 (3)

Professor Annette Huntington has chaired the Nursing Council and is currently deputy chair of the Australasian university nursing schools' body and head of Massey University's School of Nursing. Find out more about the former Plunket nurse's career and her favourite tipple when eating fish and chips with family and friends.


Annette Huntington 172KBNAME: Professor Annette Huntington
JOB TITLE: Head of School of Nursing, Massey University


Where and when did you train? 

I trained at Auckland Hospital and began work in the hospital in the early 1970s. Given the times and the nature of ‘hospital’ training, I had a very good experience at Auckland.


Other qualifications/professional roles?

I have a PhD in Nursing. I’m a past chair of the Nursing Council of New Zealand.

Currently I am deputy chair of the Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery, Australia and New Zealand, a member of the Health Practitioner Disciplinary Tribunal, a member of the International Nursing and Midwifery Advisory Board of the Hamid Medical Corporation in Qatar, and a regular Health Research Council panel member. 


When and/or why did you decide to become a nurse?

I decided I wanted to leave school after gaining my University Entrance and had a number of family members and friends who were nurses, so I thought I would give nursing a try.


What was your nursing career up to your current job?

My first nursing positions were in the operating theatre – mainly neurosurgical and paediatric – at Auckland and then general theatre at Wellington. In both roles we also assisted in ED when able, especially at night.

While in the United Kingdom, like many New Zealand nurses, I did some private nursing. But it was through being exposed to UK’s health visitors, when working in a preschool in a deprived area of London, that led to my becoming a Plunket Nurse after returning to New Zealand.

I worked for a number of years in a lower socio-economic area of Wellington then left Plunket for full-time university study to complete my post-registration Bachelor of Nursing. This led to my joining Wellington Polytechnic as a lecturer in the Advanced Diploma of Nursing programme.

When Massey University took over the polytechnic I became a senior lecturer, associate professor and professor, along with being Director of Nursing and then Head of School.

In 2000 I was appointed to the Nursing Council of New Zealand and became chair in 2001.


So what is your current job all about?

Currently my main responsibility is head of Massey University’s School of Nursing. This involves managing BN to PhD programmes across the three Massey campuses, Wellington, Palmerston North and Albany, including managing aspects such as budgets and staffing, and being involved in the wider university.

I am also actively involved in professional matters nationally and internationally, and in a range of research and workforce development projects.

I am very clear that I serve the people of New Zealand; my main role and related responsibilities all focus on ensuring safe and competent health practitioners to support excellence in health care delivery and therefore improvement in health outcomes.


If there was a fairy godmother of nursing, what three wishes would you ask to be granted for the New Zealand nursing workforce?

A comprehensive support programme for every newly graduated and registered nurse – no matter where they work or their clinical specialty – which clearly articulates with and extends the learning in the BN programme. 

Stability in organisational structure; the constant restructuring of particularly senior nursing and leadership positions leads to incredible uncertainty and attrition, which then impacts on the culture and morale of the nursing workforce.

Financial support for high quality nursing research that is undertaken in innovative partnerships between service delivery and education, providing evidence to underpin clinical practice in a rapidly changing and challenging health care context.


What do you think are the most important personal characteristics required to be a nurse?

Firstly, compassion and the ability to focus on people and their needs; secondly, expertise and confidence; and thirdly, a thoughtful and reflective approach to patient-centred nursing in any clinical setting and role, including education, leadership, research and management.


As a leader in nurse education, what do you believe are the strengths of nurse training in the 21st century, and where is there room for improvement?

A major strength in nursing education is its positioning in the tertiary education sector. Though I went through an excellent (for the time) hospital-based system, I strongly believe that focusing on education, including the clinical learning, is a real strength of nursing education today. 

Another is the growth of interest in and support for postgraduate nursing study and how it can positively impact on service delivery and health outcomes. Also the acceptance that nurses need to be involved in research and be responsible for the development of their own discipline’s knowledge.

A fourth year of undergraduate education, or provisional registration, should be considered due to the increasing complexity and range of clinical work. Also, continuing to work on education related to diversity and cultural issues to improve access to health care for all people.


What do you do to try and keep fit, healthy, happy and balanced?

The most important part of my life is my wonderful family: children, grandsons, and extended family, along with my fabulous group of friends. In my role I am very busy but still manage to enjoy getting to concerts, performances and movies, and travel and spend a lot of time talking over meals and coffee with the important people in my life.

I really enjoy my work, even with its frustrations, and for me life includes work – everything is woven into an amazing experience that continues to provide enormous satisfaction and enjoyment.


Which book is gathering dust on your bedside table waiting for you to get round to reading it?

Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries


What have you been reading instead?

The Madonnas of Leningrad and any spy thriller or detective novels I can find.


If I wasn’t a nurse I’d be…?

An investigative journalist involved in geopolitics and health.


What is your favourite meal?

Proper champagne and fish and chips with family and friends. :


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