SUPPORT ROLE: Tracey Black is finishing off her degree this year and is passionate about helping remove access barriers to health care for Maori.

TWO Eastern Bay nurses have been recognised with awards at the Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa Conference in Auckland this weekend.

The Tapuhi Kaitiaki Awards, supported by Pharmac, are in their second year and aim to develop the Maori nursing workforce to achieve the best health outcomes. They are also to recognise the positive influence Maori nurses have on whanau and the role they play as key influencers of health.

The awards are in two categories, with winners sharing a $10,000 prize in each category.
Category one – Nurse Practitioner/Nurse Prescriber – acknowledges Maori nurses who are on a professional development journey to become a nurse prescriber to advance their clinical practice and expertise.

Aroha Ruha-Hiraka (Ngati Awa, Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa, Tuhoe, Taranaki), a practice nurse on the nurse practitioner pathway working at Kawerau Medical Centre, was one of four recipients of this award.

She said she was always grateful and humbled for any recognition. “I feel proud to represent young Maori nurses and my whanau, hapu and iwi.”

DEVELOPMENT JOURNEY: Aroha Ruha-Hiraka was recognised for her work towards becoming a nurse practitioner. Photos supplied

Ms Ruha-Hiraka said the opportunity to upskill in nursing and start the nurse practitioner pathway, which would enable her to prescribe medications, was rewarding and beneficial.

“I believe nurse practitioners can help fill the gap in terms of GP shortages in rural health.”

She said becoming a nurse practitioner meant she would be able to continue to help improve the health status of Maori.

“I am so passionate about my culture that I want to apply my knowledge of te reo Maori and tikanga to practice and contribute to normalising speaking te reo Maori and applying our tikanga (values) into everyday health practice.”

Category two – Maori Nurse Matauranga –- acknowledges nurses and tauira who wish to further their study and/or develop an innovative way to help whanau, hapu and iwi to access and understand their medicines.

Tracy Black (Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Kahungunu, Te Whakatohea), a third year Maori nursing student at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi in Whakatane, was one of five winners of this award.

Ms Black said she was humbled and honoured to receive a scholarship award.

“It is to continue my studies and help support me on my nursing journey,” Ms Black said.

“I am three months out from sitting state [registration exam].”

Ms Black said it was her answer to a question in her scholarship application that helped her win the award.

“The question I answered was about how I was going to initiate change and help support my people within the health system.

“What I reiterated was knowing who I am and my whakapapa line … and ensuring that I take that into all my practices, and I don’t leave it at the door.

“Because for change to occur for our people within the health system I need to hold on to the essence of who I am and by taking that with me I will actually help with the barriers that our people face when they go into the hospital.”

Ms Black said Maori often faced access barriers within the health system.

“When we go into hospital, our whanau don’t understand the terminology, but because I have enough te reo to be able to interact with patients I use that to help them understand what the doctors, nurses and specialists tell them.”

She said she became a nurse to make a difference for her people.