Nursing skills keep new hospice boss patient-focused

CANCER CARE:  Hospice Waikato's new CEO Craig Tamblyn is settling in to the job.
CANCER CARE: Hospice Waikato's new CEO Craig Tamblyn is settling in to the job.

Craig Tamblyn also brings a business degree to the job, Elton Smallman reports. 

It is the first month on the job for the new CEO of Hospice Waikato and he is settling in nicely to his new role in a new city.

Craig Tamblyn, 47, was appointed after the former Hospice boss, Elizabeth Bang, retired and he admits he has big shoes to fill.

"Elizabeth did a wonderful job to get the organisation to here but even she said it has to take the next step."

Sitting in his office wearing a pink-and-white business shirt, Euro cut trousers and pointy toed shoes, Mr Tamblyn's style is in stark contrast to the gloom of a mid-winter Waikato morning.

Beneath his sleeve is a yellow "Livestrong" wrist band from cyclist Lance Armstrong Foundation in support of a childhood friend who developed breast cancer.

"I put this on seven years ago for her and I've never taken it off," he said. "I was given the daffodil by the Cancer Society in my role as general manager for Cancer Control New Zealand and I wear it with absolute pride."

A registered nurse with nearly 30 years experience, Mr Tamblyn brings a wealth of experience in the health sector to the hospice role.

He began his career in mental health and worked at the Wellington Cancer Centre and Wellington sexual health before moving into health management.

He has a business degree in health service management and a Masters in business administration but is quick to point out that he is a nurse first and foremost. "Ultimately, in everything I do I use my nursing knowledge and my nursing skills to get me to where I've got to today because it's about people."

Mr Tamblyn's nursing career makes him patient-focused and it is a key component of everything he does in the healthcare field and an office job is no different.

"Just because you move into management I don't believe that you actually give up nursing. I have always taken nursing with me," he said.

Raised in the Rangitikei town of Bulls Mr Tamblyn was drawn to the big city in his youth.

He had left school and was working as a healthcare assistant in Palmerston North when the opportunity arose to attend nursing school.

"It definitely was not planned," he said. It just happened."

His supervisor saw something in him and organised an interview without his knowledge and soon after he was attending nursing school.

He went into psychopedic nursing which has a larger proportion of male nurses but he said he never noticed any stigma attached to the profession.

"I don't think I've ever imagined that there is actually a stigma," he said. "I don't think caring is solely a female thing. Males care as well."

Mr Tamblyn puts family first but with his son at film school and his twin daughters in the last year of high school he saw a need to consider his future as an empty nester.

"This is a good time for me to do this," he said. "My children will be out of school and the world is their oyster."

His son, Tomasz, is not impressed that he has moved to a new city and has accused him of abandoning his post but Mr Tamblyn is quick to point out that with modern technology, he is just a Facebook status update away.

"The reality is that you only have family for a very short time before they move off to their own life. It was a really big decision to move up here but this job came up and I couldn't let this job go by."

Mr Tamblyn is waiting for his wife Jolanda to make the move to the Waikato and he hopes his twin daughters, Ally and Krystyna, will follow. He is looking forward to having his family here and sees a lot of potential for him to fulfil his passion for mountain biking and enjoying a local wine or beer in the summer months.

He is already making a habit of running along the Waikato River trail in Hamilton.

The sense of community, forged in small town New Zealand, has stuck with Mr Tamblyn throughout his 27 years in Wellington and he said those same values were still apparent in Hamilton.

"The advantage of a city like Hamilton is it still has that community feel and let's be totally honest, it's the community that built this hospice," he said.

His six years as general manager of the Palliative Care Council and Cancer Control New Zealand has taught him lessons that he is eager to apply to his new job.

"I guess what I'm going to bring to this job is how do I make the national and international perspective relate to Waikato keeping in mind that the aim is to keep this hospice as community focused as possible."

"I see my role as providing something back to the Waikato community that they have actually provided for."

There are challenges to delivering care to Hospice Waikato's geographically large region but he is keen to take the organisation to the next level.

"My job is not only to work with the community but work with the Waikato DHB (District Health Board) and work with primary care so I think there is huge scope and lots of excitement for this position."

"It's about establishing what the journey is going to be and getting as many people to come along as possible."

Waikato Times