November 11, 2022

Meet Gary Ennis, Director of Nursing, Mental Health Division

This is a significant time to be working in the mental health sector, as we declare our commitment to the ambitious reform agenda, set out by the Mental Health Royal Commission.

Last week, the Aged Persons Mental Health Services at Bundoora Centre transitioned to Northern Health, and we officially welcomed staff from the Kath Atkinson Wing (KAW), Aged Mental Health Unit and the Aged Psychiatry Assessment and Treatment Team (APATT).

Collectively, Northern Health is now the third largest mental health service in Victoria.

Today, we speak to Dr Gary Ennis, Director of Nursing, Mental Health Division.

Gary, let’s start with your coffee order?

Latte please!

Tell us about your role as Director of Nursing of Mental Health and what it entails?

The Director of Nursing for Mental Health works with Northern Health’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer to ensure there is professional oversight of mental health nursing. This includes mental health nursing education, professional development and research.

Mental health nurses work in a variety of specialist areas including emergency, community and bed-based services. There is a well-established mental health nursing structure across Northern Health, and part of my role is to think about ways to strengthen and build on the great work already being undertaken.

Tell us what you were doing prior to this role?

I have been a mental health nurse for all of my career. I won’t say for how long, but if I say cathode-ray TV, those in the know will understand!

Although I am new to Northern Health, I have previously worked at both Broadmeadows Hospital and Northern Hospital Epping in the mental health program. Before coming to Northern Health, I worked at Eastern Health as the Director of Mental Health Nursing, and before that, at the Royal Melbourne Hospital as a senior nurse.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I start my day at Northern Hospital Epping, but as mental health services are spread across all of our catchment area, it is not unusual to finish offsite. Sometimes my day involves more meetings than I would like, but I get many opportunities to chat with staff and see the great work they do.

I also work closely with the Area Senior Nurses at the Northern Area Mental Health Service, Northwest Area Mental Health Service and the Aged Mental Health program.

What excites you about your role?

The opportunity to make a difference for mental health nurses and support the fantastic work they do every day.

Mental health nursing requires a particular skill set. There are many opportunities to try something new in nursing. Creating pathways for nurses to start their mental health nursing career is an important part of my job.

In addition, the opportunity to support mental health nursing research and professional development opportunities is an exciting part of this role.

What are some of the challenges of this role?

We are a large service, and getting around to all sites to meet with nurses can be a challenge. Building and sustaining connections that ensure mental health nurses feel engaged and supported professionally will be an important part of this role. In addition, the Royal Commission into Mental Health has provided us with many opportunities to look at the way in which we do our work. Nursing will have a key role in shaping how we implement the recommendations in a meaningful way.

Lastly, what would people be most surprised to know about you?

I came from Dublin in 2003 planning to see Ireland win the Rugby World Cup and I was intending to return home after 12 months. Neither happened!