A wahine Māori has overcome constant pain from a serious car accident to complete her nursing degree, and she credits her whānau and a Māori health workforce programme for getting her through.
Te Atamira Dakin (Ngāpuhi, Whānau a Āpanui, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Koroki Kahukura) is one of 12 Māori students who celebrated the completion of their Bachelor of Nursing (Māori) at a pre-graduation ceremony at Whitireia in Porirua last night.
Dakin started her studies back in 2015 but a serious car accident near the end of her first year left her with significant physical and mental health issues that meant she had to stop studying.
She rejoined the nursing programme in 2019 but injuries to her leg and foot mean she was in constant pain, leaving her exhausted at the end of each day.
"It's been a big struggle physically and mentally," Dakin said.
"I've learnt so much about how to adapt when you're physically unwell. I didn't think I was going to get through it at the end of the second year. I was told I needed to have another surgery and I wouldn't be doing the third year."
She was supported through the rest of her studies by Kia Ora Hauora, a national Māori health workforce development programme that aims to increase the overall number of Māori in the health and disability sector.
Its central regional co-ordinator, Leigh Andrews, said more nurses like Te Atamira were needed to achieve equity in the health sector, with the Māori population in the Capital and Coast District Health Board region set to grow by 16.2 percent over the next decade.
Through her studies, Dakin has also discovered her passion for helping others, joining a mentoring programme when she returned to her studies in 2019, and eventually starting up a wānanga study group at a local marae for 17 students.
"Eight of them said if it wasn't for that support, they would have quit," Te Atamira said.
She has applied to work in medical wards, and planned to eventually specialise in holistic nursing so she could work "with not only the physical but mental well-being, family dynamics and also the spiritual side, so connecting with Te Whare Tapa Wha."
She said she had been "very, very fortunate" to have the support of her parents, particularly her mum who she said "has been the absolute backbone to my degree."
"At the end of the day, they are the ones that have been making dinner when I need food to study, lending me $20 for gas to get to school, giving me advice, listening to me when I needed them to - without them I wouldn't be graduating."