More Māori nursing students will be essential to raising an army of Māori nurses who are sufficiently culturally responsive to meet the increasing health needs of Māori, says Tracy Black (Ngai Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Whakatohea), Chair of Te Rūnanga Tauira.
Speaking today at the Te Rūnanga Tauira Professional Development Day, held at Waipapa Marae in Auckland, Ms Black said we need more Māori nurses working in primary, secondary and tertiary care.
“The Nursing Council of New Zealand register identified in 2017 that 7 per cent of the nursing workforce is Māori, but the Māori population is 15 per cent. That is a huge gap,” she said.
Around 115 Māori nursing students are attending the professional development day which is a precursor to the Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa Conference starting on Friday with the theme ‘Raising an Army of Māori Nurses’.
“Today is really about gathering the voices of the membership to decide on issues of focus. It’s about inspiring our new students, but also those who are completing year three and about to enter the workforce. We’re saying, ‘Keep going; we can do this’.
“We need to recruit more and also retain the Māori students we have because many are being managed out when they progress through their studies and come face-to-face with institutional racism in their schools. They can become fearful about speaking out; they become silenced or they leave.”
NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said there were some fantastic young Māori nurses coming through into the workforce.
“We need to ensure we support them so the system doesn’t chew them up and spit them out. They are the change agents for the future, and I honestly believe that when I look at the calibre of tauira we have coming through.
“So our job is to help make sure they don’t become disillusioned with a system that is so old and hard for them to work in as Māori. We need to make them feel valued and to know they have different skills and ways of communicating; that they look at the health system and know they are the ones to change it. Really, they’re a lot braver than I am.”
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.
“So, wherever my people need me that’s where I will go.”