Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Resilience, sacrifice and perseverance behind nursing degree success

Betsy Ramalasou with husband Paul and daughter. Photo: Ara
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Gladys Hartson | Senior Journalist

As the saying goes…behind every man is a good woman!

In the case of Betsy Ramalasou, she would say, behind a good woman is a good man, as she credits her husband Paul for his unwavering support and encouragement on her way to completing her nursing degree and becoming a registered nurse. 

Betsy was one of 80 students who graduated from the Ara Institute of Canterbury in February, 17 of whom completed a Bachelor’s degree of Nursing. 

Betsy was chosen to deliver a speech to the graduates and shared her journey, describing how health was not her first career choice. 

“I wanted to be a police officer, I wanted to get into the police force. But then, I was like, I’ll try beauty. I did it for about 10 years.

“At the time hubby was saying to me, you know, you could be a nurse. And I said to him, really? And he goes, yeah, I can see you being a nurse, you should do nursing this is more you.” 

Photo: Ara

Hailing from Pukapuka in the Cook Islands and Yasawa in Fiji, Betsy is proof that resilience, sacrifice and perseverance pays off. While she still had reservations about getting back into study and taking on a nursing degree, she took the plunge. 

A life of study meant embarking on four years of travelling between her home in Ashburton to the Ara Institute of Canterbury campus in Timaru, 78 kilometres away. She completed an entry pathway programme before taking on the three-year nursing degree. 

As Betsy was preparing for exams, there was a surprise in store for the Ramalasou family.

“I found out that I was pregnant. So I took the year off to have my daughter. And then I started nursing when she was seven months.” 

But her routine just got harder; Monday to Friday meant driving from Ashburton to Timaru to get to lectures, tutorials and clinical placements. Finding a pre-school was another consideration for Betsy as her clinical placements would start at 7am and she was also required to complete 1100 hours of practice.

Betsy with family. Photo: Betsy Vunimasi Ramalasou/Facebook

Betsy says it was not easy, and there were times it got tough. She considered putting her studies on hold until her daughter was older, but again her husband encouraged her to keep going. 

“I had amazing help from the preschool, even a lady in Timaru offered to look after my daughter for the morning while I would do my placement… without these women, these people… also, we had friends who we considered as our family, they also helped out as well with our daughter.”

“But there were also times, doing exams, studying for an exam with the baby, it was hard because there were times when she got sick. All I can say was, it was hard. It was tough,” says Betsy.

“My husband always said to me, you have to remember that you’re doing a degree, not a diploma and it’s going to get tough, but the tougher it gets, that means you’re at the end,  you’re nearly there, you’re nearly finished.” 

And finish she did. Betsy not only completed her nursing degree, but also found the time to mentor Pacific nursing students as well as tutor and help with assignments. So it is not surprising that in 2023 she was named the Eke Panuku elevation Pacific mentor & tutor of the year in South Canterbury.

Betsy now works as a registered nurse at Pleasant Point Health Centre. And while she still has an hour to travel to get to work she says she loves her job and is in the right place. 

“I did my last clinical placement here and they supported me, they had my back. They had more faith in me than I had faith in myself.”

Betsy leading the grdauation parade. Photo: Aiman Amerul Muner/The Timaru Herald

Betsy is also mindful of supporting the wider Pasifika community in Ashburton and South Canterbury. She says she is acutely aware that Pasifika are overly represented with high rates of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. She says she would like to focus on these areas as well as encourage cervical screening for women and immunisation.

“I want Pacific families to be like, oh, I can actually go to Betsy because she can explain it to me”, or she’ll find a way to remove barriers for me,” she says.

Betsy also paid tribute to her family, father Reoreka Ngutu who passed away last year, her Mother and her father in law Kemueli Ramalasou for their unwavering support.

She also acknowledged the Pacific Achievement Ara team adding that the support from all corners, especially her family got her to the finish line.

“It wasn’t just my journey, it was me, my husband and my daughter’s journey. Because we all did this together. We faced the challenges together. But we overcame it and now we look back and it’s like, you know, we did it.”

The Bachelor of nursing programme at Ara is on the rise with for the first time a second cohort of 25 students set to join the programme.

Ara Academic Manager for the Department of Health Practice says,“Our March intake is fully subscribed, but we are already inviting applications with a May close off date for a second cohort in 2024 which will commence in August.”



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