The need for strong and resilient health systems was the theme of this year’s 6th New Zealand Nurses Organisation Pacific Nursing Section (NZNO PNS) symposium, held recently in South Auckland and attended by over fifty Pacific nurses based in New Zealand.
The annual symposium brings the expertise and creativity of Pacific nurses to the transformation agenda to respond effectively to challenges in the healthcare system.
“As a nurse you can help strengthen health systems in Aotearoa, our Pacific nations, and the world”, says ‘Eseta Finau, Chairperson of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Pacific Nursing Section (NZNO PNS).
‘Eseta also announced, and celebrated, being reconfirmed and voted back to the NZNO Board.
“Our advocacy in policy does make a difference to decision making and population health if there’s an absent representation of Pacific voice at the decision making table,” says ‘Eseta.
The announcement was followed by a stunning line up of keynote speakers starting with Kerri Nuku, NZNO Kaiwhakahaere who reminded the participants of the importance of tino rangatiratanga (knowing who we are), when considering the place where we are now and where we are planning to be. The challenge she posed was ‘don’t accept the status quo’.
Debbie Sorensen, CEO of Pasifika Medical Association and Pasifika Futures and a lifelong advocate for Pacific health, presented examples of where nurses and other Pacific health professionals are making a difference with an update on Whānau Ora work and Achieving Health Equity presentation.
She illustrated this by paying tribute to the five Tongan seasonal workers who died tragically in a car accident in Tauranga. Debbie says the accident united the Tongan community to ensure the families of these men were supported and provided for in their time of grief.
“The outpouring of the Tongan, Pacific and general community across New Zealand was a testament to the Winds of Change that can transform a grief stricken situation to one where love, alofa and material and human resources go a long way to fostering resiliency in communities.”
Other speakers were Dr Seini Taufa of the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study, who shared the relevance of the study to the Pacific population in New Zealand.
Dr Taufa shared her inspiration to set up a company giving back to the community in Tonga with projects that promote healthy subsistence lifestyles and sharing resources with communities in need. Her work with a Tongan Youth Suicide Prevention community project also spoke to her heart about her people and about using her talents to their fullest capacity.
Margaret Cain, NZNO Professional Nursing Advisor, eloquently cautioned nurses on the pitfalls of social media and the need for prudence when posting on Facebook and other social media sites.
Margaret’s wisdom and professional knowledge of the legal challenges for nurses was greatly appreciated by symposium participants who plied Margaret with a diverse range of questions about staying safe and being competent in their nursing practice.
‘Eseta says that it is imperative that Pacific nurses are seeking opportunities to strengthen and develop resilience.
“By promoting the voice of Pacific nursing, we can help guide improvements in the quality of health service delivery and facilitate health systems strengthening.”
“Pacific nurses’ input into health sector policies will help ensure that supportive work environments for practice are taken into account when policies are reformed.”
“It is our duty to ensure that governments and policymakers understand that confident, well-informed Pacific nursing leaders who understand their role in developing a workforce to meet new challenges and are essential to ensure the achievement of successful health outcomes for Pacific peoples in Aotearoa and to meet the health challenges of the future.”
All nursing associations submitted their reports on their year’s work including Tausi Soifua Samoa (nurses and other health workers), Tongan Nurses Associations (Auckland, Wellington and Tonga), Cook Islands Nurses Association, Niue Nurses Association, Fiji Nurses Association, Tokelau Nurses and Health Workers Association, and for the first time, the newly formed Pan Pacific Nursing Association.
A group of Bachelor of Nursing Pacific students from the Manukau Institute of Technology, mostly in their third year, joined the symposium alongside their senior nurse lecturer, Metua Daniel-Atutolu.
It was another successful symposium for the PNS with laughter and food, more planning for the future nursing leaders and for the betterment of healthcare for Pacific peoples in Aotearoa.