Panu Te Whaiti: from Missionary to Support Worker to Nurse

From Missionary to Support Worker, Panu Te Whaiti has had fingers in many pies, but it was a bad health system experience that led her to nursing.

The mother of two was 38 and working as a DHB Support Worker when she visited a general practice with her son, who had developed a nasty strider wheeze.

But the doctor refused to see Ms Te Whaiti’s son because she didn’t have the required fee on-hand, and the practice staff told her to visit the hospital Emergency Department instead. As soon as Ms Te Whaiti and her son got to ED, staff rushed her son straight through to Resuscitation 1 (the most urgent care) and put him on both oxygen and steroids.

“Right then and there, I thought: ‘I’m going to be part of the solution now’,” says Ms Te Whaiti.

A decade later, Ms Te Whaiti has not only kept her resolution, but she has fast-tracked up the nursing ladder.

After graduating, she joined the Hastings branch of Totara Health as Practice Nurse, and within two years, became Clinical Nurse Team Leader. Several years later, she switched to a corporate role as Portfolio Manager with the DHB’s Planning and Funding team, where she works now.

But Ms Te Whaiti hasn’t always worked in health. She left home at 17 and worked as a missionary for seven years.

“My strengths in my new role are due to my clinical and community background, and having worked with Māori and Pasifika communities.”

Ironically, back in 2009, Ms Te Whaiti reported to the same person she replaced a decade later.

“Marie Beattie the HPV Manager in the Public Health team and she employed me as a Support Worker back in 2009. Fast forward to 2020, and I was re-employed by the DHB, replacing her as Portfolio Manager,” she says.

Starting up Taka Tapui, the DHB’s rainbow advisory group is a highlight of her DHB role.

“They bring their perspective as a rainbow community and their significance will be exciting going forward as we go into the health reform."

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