Nurs­ing was good way to meet girls

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

Tonga’s first male nurse may ad­mit he stud­ied nurs­ing for the ‘‘wrong rea­sons’’, but he is now en­cour­ag­ing other Pa­cific students to choose the vo­ca­tion he even­tu­ally fell in love with.

‘‘It’s a bit em­bar­rass­ing,’’ Sione Vaka says. ‘‘My friend and I de­cided to go to nurs­ing school be­cause we thought it would be good, we would get to look like doc­tors and meet girls.’’

Mr Vaka and his friend were the first men to be ac­cepted to Tonga’s nurs­ing pro­gramme af­ter the gen­der en­try rules changed in 1993.

Mr Vaka had a tal­ent for health care and af­ter one year of study in Tonga, he was granted a full schol­ar­ship to study in New Zealand.

De­spite com­ing into the coun­try with min­i­mal English, he com­pleted his bach­e­lor of nurs­ing in three years.

‘‘When I started nurs­ing I found out that I was con­tribut­ing to so­ci­ety, es­pe­cially with the Ton­gan men who were un­com­fort­able with the fe­male nurses and weren’t dis­clos­ing im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion.’’

Nowa­days Mr Vaka works at the Manukau In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy as a se­nior lec­turer and helped de­sign the bach­e­lor of nurs­ing Pa­cific, which is in its sec­ond year.

The course is tai­lored to­wards Pa­cific ways of learn­ing and is about a third the size of the main­stream class, al­low­ing for more oneon-one teach­ing.

Mr Vaka says nurs­ing is a good path­way for Pa­cific peo­ple.

‘‘Our sta­tis­tics loudly,’’ he says.

‘‘Pa­cific peo­ple have poor health and live in low so­cioe­co­nomic ar­eas but our num­ber of peo­ple in the nurs­ing work­force are low. We need to make it more equal.’’

speak

The Sta­tis­tics New Zealand web­site in­di­cates Pa­cific peo­ple are much more likely to de­velop heart con­di­tions, stroke or di­a­betes than their Maori or Pakeha coun­ter­parts.

The web­site adds that Pa­cific peo­ple com­prise nearly 7 per cent of the na­tion’s pop­u­la­tion, yet they make up only 2.8 per cent of all en­rolled or reg­is­tered nurses.

Mr Vaka says a higher con­cen­tra­tion of Pa­cific health work­ers can help make non-Pa­cific peo­ple more aware of cul­tural dif­fer­ences.

Pa­cific Hori­zon Health Cen­tre clinic man­ager Jen­nifer Tua­galu says the abil­ity to speak Pa­cific lan­guages is what makes a dif­fer­ence to its ser­vices.

The Block­house Bay clinic ser­vices a pa­tient base that is around 95 per cent Pasi­fika, and has sev­eral Pa­cific nurses and locum doc­tors on staff.

‘‘It is quite hard to find ex­pe­ri­enced Pa­cific peo­ple, and that’s what we look for.’’

She says health work­ers who speak a Pa­cific lan­guage are rare ‘‘and that’s a real bar­rier’’.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Hospi­tal cor­ner: Sione Vaka was one of the first men in Tonga to take up the op­por­tu­nity to study nurs­ing, now he is a se­nior lec­turer at Manukau In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

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