MIND AND BODY MATTERS
WorkSafe CEO Nicole Rosie seems to have been preparing herself for this role her whole working life.
She’s a former tennis champion, a Fulbright Scholar who passed law with first class honours at Otago, then went on to complete a Masters of Public Health at Harvard and she is a mother of four children under 12.
Add into this mix a woman who is living with chronic pain from a neck injury sustained from sport, who was told that she may end up being disabled for life, and you begin to get a sense of the type of determination that drives her.
Time spent in an Auckland pain clinic helped cement her interest in the connection between law, medicine and health and in an employee as a whole person. It also provided a reality check on how poor the system can be for people who have a disability.
She says while the system does its best, it is hard for those in chronic pain to see the wood for the trees, they are often suffering from little sleep and they need people around them who help them see what they do have and what they can do, rather than what their limitations might be.
She believes chronic pain is a mindset and, while many people have some form of challenge they live with, it is how you choose to treat it that matters. In some ways her condition has been an asset to her. “It meant I slowed down,” and she says it has ended up being beneficial and a gift to her. “I know that now.”
She is also a believer in humans not being a body separated from a mind but that they need to be treated as a whole person. The mind can affect the body as evidenced by back pain in some people where there are no symptoms, but the pain is still very real. The back may have ‘gone out’ as the person was dealing with problems at home and a controlling boss and then they strained their back, but it is all interlinked.
Her background also includes a stint at ACC dealing with people with very complex files and helping to establish the ACC self-insurance programme for Fletcher Challenge Forests. She also had responsibility for leading the health and safety functions on the Waipa Sawmill site, which had the worst health and safety performance in Fletcher Forests at the time, and the best performance a year and a half later.
More recently she led health and safety for Fonterra, with a team of 120 health and safety professionals in 51 countries. She took the role with Fonterra when she was nine months pregnant with her fourth child and has only praise for the progressive leadership there which employed a mother of three about to give birth.