Māori nurses serving the Māori Community

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New nurse Kayla Hemara-Wahanui believes having Māori work in a Māori organisation is a given.

The WITT graduate is one of 42 nurses who walked straight into employment after completing the three-year bachelor’s degree at the end of last year.

The 100 per cent employment rate sees recent WITT nursing graduates in jobs across an array of sectors in the industry from medical, surgical, emergency, primary health care, mental health, elderly and intensive care and public health. 

Now working for iwi Ngati Ruanui in Hāwera, Kayla said having a Māori voice within the organisation has meant people are able to thrive.

“Without that, there is no one really to drive Māori initiatives. How can an initiative be implemented, for Māori, in a Māori organisation when it’s developed and used by non-Māori?” she said.

“We have a say in plans that are for our people, which I find really exciting.”

Kayla said the Treaty of Waitangi, cultural safety and tikanga Māori were all intertwined in the Bachelor of Nursing degree.   

It helps those from a non-Māori background to gain insight into Te Ao Māori (the Māori worldview).

“It has enabled me to aid Māori to navigate in a non-Māori world, something I have found invaluable in my job as a GP nurse,” she said.

The patients are then able to relate to Kayla, which helps because she knows many people in the community.

“And while initially I thought I would run into problems, I’ve actually found it a lot easier to get patient buy-in because I know their whanau and can talk about them, crack jokes to people I went to school with, or ask someone how their dog is because I’ve seen them walking.”

She said being with the patients is her favourite part about the job, who have amazing stories and come from a diverse range of backgrounds.

“It’s so rewarding being able to serve your community.”

Kayla chose to study nursing at WITT to stay at home and to be close to her friends and family. She also wanted to work in Taranaki.

“What’s so bad about studying at home? Mum loves it, although she won’t admit it.”

She said the WITT tutors were always there for the students, had their backs to matter what but also knew when it was time for them to spread their wings and fly.

Her favourite part of the programme was transitioning to practice placement. It made it feel real and she soon realised she was going to become a ‘real nurse’.

“My time at WITT was something I will never forget, and I will always be grateful to those who helped me on my journey to become a Registered Nurse.”

WITT’s Director, School of Nursing, Health and Wellness Ruth Crawford credits a great team of nursing lecturers, small classes and a strong community focus for the course’s success rate.

There is also support from the health sector in Taranaki.

“We have fantastic support from the Taranaki District Health Board and private providers including aged residential care community and primary health care providers.”

Crawford said in the past two years, student numbers have grown from 47 in new year one students in 2019, to 94 in 2020.

“In 2021 we had 62 new students commence year one in February and are anticipating a further 35 to commence in June.”

Seventeen students entered year two from outside the area and many of the latter students had completed year one of the course in other institutions. They have now chosen to return to Taranaki to finish the degree, she said.

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