Failing to take into account of cultural perspectives in nurse training and instances of institutional racism were some of the issues to emerge from the Te Rūnanga Tauira Professional Development Day held at Waipapa Marae in Auckland last week.

Around 115 Māori nursing students attended the professional development day which was a precursor to the Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa Conference with the theme ‘Raising an Army of Māori Nurses’.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says it was “quite distressing” to hear the accounts of the Māori student nurses.

She relayed how when changes are made to the curriculum there is a lack of consultation about how these changes impact on students from a cultural perspective.

“Whether it’s because the schools of nursing are wanting to improve cost-effectiveness or efficiency it doesn’t take into account from an equity point of view the impact that would have on the tauira’s ability to learn from a different world view,” says Nuku.

Students also spoke about how they have to “forget their Māoriness” when they undertake Nurse Practitioner training.

Nuku says there is an indication that people in some workplaces don’t think Bachelor of Nursing Māori programmes carry as much integrity as mainstream programmes.

But the good news is that we’re talking about these issues, says Nuku. The professional development day and the conference were focused on empowering Māori nurses.

The theme of the conference, ‘Raising an Army of Māori Nurses’ harks back to words spoken by Māori politician Apirana Ngata early in the 20th Century.

“Back in the 1900s, with the onslaught of epidemics killing Māori, they raised an army of Māori nurses to go out there and work in the community. We need to be doing that again now because our people are dying at the same rates from non-communicable diseases such as heart disease,” says Nuku.

Tracy Black is a third year Māori nursing student at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. She says her dreams and aspirations about nursing have always been to make a difference for her whānau because they were dying from preventable illnesses such as heart disease.

“But as I’m walking through this journey my eyes are opening and I have a bigger whānau now. It bridges across all of Aotearoa where my people are dying from preventable illnesses, but have trouble accessing and understanding health services that are not always culturally responsive.

Nuku agrees.

“We still see a system that doesn’t allow us to be Māori within it. So this time we’re putting more momentum around it and we’re working more collectively to bring change.

“We are serious. We need to be real about the issues – identify them and look at steps to tactically provide a vision about what our workforce could and should look like and then achieve our aspiration.”

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