Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Pacific people answer the call to join the health care sector

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Pacific graduate Keziah Toalii Nielsen. Photo: Supplied
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Gladys Hartson | Senior Journalist

As the world recovers from the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the health sector has been particularly hit hard in New Zealand with reported nursing shortages. 

In response to the demand for more staff in the health sector, Auckland City Hospital (Te Toka Tumai) began actively recruiting to help support their staff further. In August 2021 they launched the Health Care Assistant (HCA) Earn and Learn programme. 

A key aim from the programme is to increase Pacific and Maori staff to better reflect New Zealand’s diverse communities and last week the programme’s first and second intake of cohorts graduated. Several Pacific peoples are among the 44 HCAs graduates who completed the nine month programme.

One of those Pacific graduates is Keziah Toalii Nielsen. Of Samoan descent, Keziah says she has always wanted to be a nurse and loves working in the sector. 

With a background working as a support worker and caregiver, Keziah decided it was time to bite the bullet and apply, “I felt like the HCA Earn and Learn program was a good bridging point for me to reach my goal. 

“I’ve been putting it off for so long, so when I came across the program I thought why not give it a go, and here I am, and I’m graduating.”

A key aim from the programme is to increase Pacific and Maori staff to better reflect New Zealand’s diverse communities. Photo: Supplied

Keziah completed the level three qualification in Health and Wellbeing. The graduates are now able to provide help and support on the wards under the direction and delegation of a registered nurse. 

They work across clinics, wards, the emergency departments and in operating rooms, and have a wide-ranging role, from supporting patients with comfort and concerns to ensuring the environment is ready to provide the best care to patients.

Keziah was allocated to work in the theatres and says, while at times it was a bit overwhelming, the experience and training was invaluable. 

“I can’t put it down to one thing, but I have learned a lot from a hospital setting and how things run because I come from a health sector background but it’s good to come into a hospital and it’s a completely different setting,” she says.

“It’s quite busy, but you learn to cope with it and you have a lot of support … I’ve learned a lot of new skills assisting the nurses in theatres with equipment and learning to set up the machines for each surgery, just learning more and what different machines do and why they use it.” 

Keziah is putting the call out for other Pacific people to consider a pathway to health as an option. Photo: Supplied

While Keziah continues her journey to pursue a nursing career, she encourages other Pacific people to consider a pathway to health as an option. 

“For us as Pacific people, what we like is to serve others. It’s important … people come into the hospital and they’re vulnerable. 

“So it’s our job to just make sure that they’re okay. They need someone to talk to, or even if we just break the ice by introducing ourselves. Just making sure the patient is okay and their families as well.” 

The first cohort of students finished their nine months training and graduated last week. They will be joined by another 18 students from the second cohort, who finish their studies in July 2023. A third cohort began in May, and a fourth group began this week.

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