Throughout Michael McIlhone’s 37 year nursing career, a strong focus on women and children’s health has been a reoccurring theme.
After becoming a registered nurse at the Christchurch Hospital School of Nursing in 1981, his first role was in the emergency department, before putting on a backpack and exploring the world. After his return to Christchurch and the Emergency Department, this was followed by some work in the surgical area and the STD clinic. A public health nurse position followed shortly after.
In 1988, Michael then moved into neonatal care, which led to a 20-year career in neonates that took him to Saudi Arabia – where he married his wife Elaine – then to Oxford (UK), Auckland, back to Saudi Arabia and then London again, and finally, home to Christchurch in 1994.
In 2008, Michael became the Nursing Director for Women and Children’s Health in Christchurch, including an 18-month secondment to Planning and Funding. He was appointed in his current role as Director of Nursing for Pegasus Health in November 2014. “Women and children’s health are an obvious and well-suited combination and my interest evolved from looking after sick children and babies in acute care, and blossomed over my 20 years working in neonates. I became interested in the child development side of things and it really opened my eyes to think – where do these children end up?”
So when Michael was asked to join the Well Child Tamariki Ora (WCTO) Quality Improvement steering group over two years ago, he says the decision was easy. “Equity is what drives me. This was an opportunity for me to champion women and children’s health and to have input into the development of services, ensuring there is a balance of care provided – equity of resources, equity of access, and equity of positive outcomes.”
Michael also sits on a number of other committees and health care working groups, including the South Island Mental Health Service Level Alliance, Clinical Informatics Leadership Team, Canterbury Clinical Network Leadership Team and recently the Canterbury Suicide Prevention Governance Group. This helps him link the systems together, he says. “I’m working with groups of people I either knew of or had professional relationships with, and my background gives me the ability to understand and contribute to the conversations being held around the table.”
He says the WCTO group is made up of people who truly believe in the work they are doing. “The members are all very committed and also well connected to their local communities. And our project manager, Anna Foaese, does a wonderful job. She gets the right people together and has a real insight on what needs to be done. She is great at project management, but is always keen to listen and learn.”
The role of chair is about governance and strategic thinking, with a good understanding of what’s going on, Michael says. “But it’s such a highly functioning group that I don’t have to do that much – I feel like I take just as much as I give.”
Ensuring the consumer and Maori are driving the conversation is also vital. “It’s so important to listen to their insight/experience/wisdom and take their advice, and this needs to take place in the form of a partnership in the initial stages of planning. We are all working towards a common goal, so the more we look at the system to ensure the best fit, work together and share ideas, the more the community will benefit.”