A 63-year-old woman was brought to Whanganui Hospital just before Christmas, half paralysed by a stroke.

On March 31 she was able to walk out, clinical nurse co-ordinator Mary Stanford said with a smile.

"That's a lie, she didn't walk out. She was crying so hard... we had to wheelchair her out. But she could have walked out," Ms Stanford said.

It is moments like those that Ms Stanford loves, and they are the reason she became a nurse.

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As International Nurses' Day approaches on May 12, she thinks over the good and bad of the job.

After nine years in the job, many of which have been spent in Whanganui Hospital's acute stroke unit and assessment, treatment and rehabilitation ward, she is still able to say she loves her work.

"It's so cool to work here and see people actually get better," she said.

Ms Stanford previously worked with special needs children as a teacher aide, but "wanted to do more".

"It's just amazing to see people take their first steps."

But not everyone recovers.

For Ms Stanford, one of the hardest parts of the job was seeing someone who was previously independent be discharged to a rest home.

However, helping people recover made up for the bad parts, she said.

"We're a real team on this ward. Also because the patients are here for so long, we get to know them.

"It's really cool when you have someone here and they're not that flash, and then you see them in the supermarket a few months later, and they're pushing their trolley or something."

Seeing people get better and working as a team were Ms Stanford's favourite parts of the job, although she wished there was more time to spend with the patients.

"Sometimes it's just so busy that it's hard to take your breaks, because you know that your patients might be missing out. Often nurses don't have time to talk to each other... it's a really busy job. You do feel bad, sometimes, that you haven't given your patients enough time. There's not time to just sit and chat to them."

Ms Stanford said they also learned a lot from their longer-term patients.

"We learn what we could do better," she said.

She encouraged others to look into nursing as a career, but with a warning.

"I think it's an excellent job, but I think that if you're going to be a nurse you need to be in a position that you love. Work in an area that interests you, that you care about."

Luckily for Ms Stanford, she's found just that.