Developing a Māori nursing wānanga (school) in Whakatāne, and seeing her nursing students shape their careers, is one of Nursing Council of NZ Chair Ngaira Harker’s career highlights.
Ms Harker is Nurse Director Māori Health at Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, and stepped into the Nursing Council Chair role a few months ago.
She specifically designed the wānanga, Te Whare Wānanga Awanui Arangi, to grow a workforce that could work responsively with Māori, Ms Harker says.
“It was something the community wanted to improve health outcomes, she says.
“That took seven years to develop, and was a big highlight of my career; growing a group of culturally and clinically qualified nurses to work in rural areas.”
Having worked as an educator across New Zealand for many years, Ms Harker is passionate about educating people that nursing happens everywhere - not just in hospitals.
“That often becomes the narrative around nurses, but actually, nurses are prescribing, running nurse-led clinics and working as specialist nurses out in the community”, she says.
“I’m quite passionate about growing the nursing workforce and skills base, and ensuring the skills nurses are taught are up-to-date with what’s needed in the workforce.”
Seeing more diversity in the nursing workforce has also been a big career highlight, she says.
“When I started my training, there were three Māori students in nursing school and two of us graduated, and now we are seeing much bigger numbers.”
Ms Harker believes having an international day for nurses is important because their work is: “Quite needed”.
“We are the kind of people that just get on with it,” she says.
“I think families would want to acknowledge that nurses are a special breed, and not everybody can do this job.
“You have to be pretty resilient, you have to have a love for meeting and working with people, and you have to be a life-long learner."