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Student Profiles

Aroha Ruha
Iwi:
Ngāti Awa, Tūhoe

Te Ohanga Mataora – Bachelor of Health Sciences Māori Nursing
Graduate

Background Summary:

I graduated in 2017 from my Awanuiārangi kaupapa Māori nursing degree as a registered nurse. I’m now a new graduate practice nurse at Kawerau Medical Centre, where I worked part-time as a healthcare assistant throughout my three-year nursing studies. Most of the centre’s patients are Māori, and it is good to be able to express our culture, speak our reo and normalise that in the health industry – that makes a difference for Māori.

The cultural safety and tikanga Māori component of my degree has helped me contribute to better health outcomes for Māori because language, cultural awareness and good communication helps to connect and build rapport quickly with Māori patients, which means they feel comfortable coming into the practice. It also makes it much easier to ensure that the practice’s health education is easily understood. That is an important part of the work to deliver good care to our patients. And we have some kaumātua who struggle to understand English so I do some of my consultations in Māori, which is easier for me and for them – a win-win.

As a kura kaupapa kid, I grew up with Māori as my first language and little knowledge of Pākehā. Awanuiārangi was the best choice for me to build a tertiary studies foundation. I was familiar with the environment – it was just the norm to me. I might have struggled in a mainstream institution.

I gave birth to my daughter Tewaituarangi in the second year of my degree but was back at school the next day because I had an assessment. I was studying full-time, working part-time and being a mum fulltime. I just continued my studies with no break. But I couldn’t have done it without my whānau – they were my number one support system.

I plan to continue with my studies, firstly to become a nurse practitioner through graduate study, and then hopefully to follow my long-term goal of becoming a doctor.

* Aroha Ruha-Hiraka was named the 2018 joint winner of the national Young Nurse of the Year Award. The New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s (NZNO) annual award celebrates nursing at an excellent level and recognises that recipients have reached a high level in their everyday work. Ruha-Hiraka was nominated by her employers at the centre for her work to improve the health status of Māori through prevention and education­, and in particular her focus on helping patients to quit smoking and manage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). At the awards, NZNO kaiwhakahaere Keri Nuku acknowledged Ruha-Hiraka’s use of tikanga and te reo Māori to create a safe and respectful environment when working with patients and their whānau, and said she truly deserves recognition for her hard work and dedication. “You are a wonderful role model for young and Māori nurses, and we couldn’t agree more with staff at Kawerau Medical Centre, who say they are lucky to have you.”