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Whānau is everything for four Māori Masters graduates

Ellyn Proffit is capped at Te Kōpū Mania o Kirikiriroa Marae Graduation ceremony on Wintec’s Hamilton campus.

Ellyn Proffit is capped by Wintec Council Chair Barry Harris at Te Kōpū Mania o Kirikiriroa Marae Graduation ceremony on Wintec’s Hamilton campus.

Four Māori nurses have graduated with Masters degrees from Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec), and all agree that time is the biggest challenge, and a supportive network means everything.

The four, Myra Pourau (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāi Te Rangi), Ellyn Proffit (Ngāti Porou), Janette Ngaheu (Ngāti Awa, Te Pahipoto, Ngāti Pikiao), and Natalie Lewis (Ngāti Tuwharetoa, Ngāti Porou, Tainui) all value education in progressing their careers and want to inspire others to follow an academic pathway to find success.

Myra Pourau and Ellyn Proffit graduated with a Master of Nursing and Janette Ngaheu and Natalie Lewis graduated with a Master of Professional Practice.

Wintec acting chief executive David Christiansen says Māori achievement is a focus at Wintec and it’s important that learners are enabled with the right tools and support to achieve success.

“Around 26 percent of Wintec students identify as Māori and we’re really proud of that. What makes us even happier is the levels of achievement our Māori students are attaining.

“Māori student success is crucial if we are to develop a workforce that reflects the diversity and the needs of our community, and reduce health inequities for Māori. These four Masters graduates are great role models in this respect, particularly for those considering a career in nursing."

Christiansen says Wintec’s Centre for Health and Social Practice has created flexible education pathways to support nurses to successfully manage the challenges of postgraduate study, full-time jobs and whānau commitments to gain higher qualifications, and leadership positions.

Wintec Māori Masters graduates Natalie Lewis, Janette Ngaheu and Myra Pourau at their graduation.Natalie Lewis, Janette Ngaheu and Myra Pourau graduated at Wintec’s Centre for Health and Social Practice ceremony at Claudelands.

Ellyn Proffit, was part of the first Tihei Mauri Ora Māori Nursing class at Wintec. She has nursed for 23 years at Waikato DHB, is currently a clinical nurse specialist supporting adolescents and young adults with cancer, and she's part of the governance group for the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Network. She says senior nurses are expected to advance themselves and gain higher learning.

“I completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Nursing and from there, a Master of Nursing.  A highlight for me has been the continuous learning and stretching of myself within this role, both personally and professionally, requiring me to push myself out of my comfort zone to progress the service and respond to the needs and wellbeing of the young people I am privileged to work with.” 

Myra Pourau, kaihautū cancer hauora navigator at Bay of Plenty DHB, says working with those needing care and helping to improve the health of Māori and their whānau (wider family), is a highlight of the work she does. 

“I have a great sense of achievement and relief at finally finishing what I started seven years ago. When studying, my priorities were my full-time community nurse role, my study, my whānau and myself. 

“I could not have achieved this tohu (qualification) without the significant tautoko (support) from my whānau, friends, managers and colleagues, Health Workforce New Zealand and the awesome staff at Wintec.”

Her advice to potential students is to “be clear about your career aspirations and focus on the studies that will help you to achieve your goal”.

Natalie Lewis, Janette Ngaheu and Myra Pourau with the 2019 Wintec Master of Nursing and Master of Professional Practice graduates. Natalie Lewis, Janette Ngaheu and Myra Pourau (wearing kākahu/Māori garments) with the Master of Nursing and Master of Professional Practice graduates at the Wintec Centre for Health and Social Practice graduation.

Gaining a Master in Professional Practice is a step towards a PhD for Natalie Lewis, who has held various senior roles over the past 21 years since joining the second intake of the Tihei Mauri Ora Māori Nursing at Wintec, she is currently clinical nurse specialist Hauora ihub at Waikato DHB.

For those wanting to set out on a study pathway, she says “go for it, we need more Māori academics to lead the way for our people, to be role models and to believe in ourselves".

“I left school at age 14, had my daughter when I was 17, and couldn’t read, write or do maths that well. I asked for help when training to be a nurse, learnt how to do maths and read medical terminology, and attended the learning skills centre to learn how to write assignments. I worked my butt off to pass my diploma in nursing; I failed and resat six months later. With determination and whānau support you can do anything. If I didn’t complete my Masters, I would regret not furthering my studies.”

Janette Ngaheu now works for the Midland Cancer Network in project and change management alongside service planning and improvement. Prior to this, she worked as a registered nurse at Waikato District Health Board for 20 years, the last three years as a Charge Nurse Manager. She confirms that without the support of the people in her life, she would not have been able to complete her masters and she is now contemplating her next steps.

“I am really interested in policy, especially policy that impacts Māori health and welfare.  I would like to look into the feasibility of completing a PHD within this area and also in the reduction of inequity for Māori. However, I really enjoy the aspect of my job at the Midland Cancer Network, where I can improve health outcomes.

“The highlight for me within my working environments has always been the people. The people I have cared for, the people I have met and the people that I have worked with to create an environment of care and compassion at a vulnerable time in a person’s life.”

Wintec graduated 12 Masters students in health and social practice this year. Wintec graduation was held in March, when 1,200 graduates from the 2,000 eligible, celebrated their success at one of five ceremonies in Hamilton.

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