Aroha Ruha-Hiraka is this year's joint winner of the Young Nurse of the Year Award.
Ruha-Hiraka currently works as a practice nurse at Kawerau Medical Centre but hopes to continue study towards a medical doctor's degree.
For three years she has successfully combined full-time study, part-time work and being a mother to her now two-year-old daughter in order to become a nurse.
“My mother encouraged me to study towards a nursing degree," says Ruha-Hiraka, "My first dream was to study towards a doctor's degree but my family had just moved back here from Wellington. We had heard about a new degree that had been developed under Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.”
She was one of thirty-four students who began the Bachelor of Health Science Mâori degree in 2015.
She graduated at the end of last year.
“Because I had attended kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa and wharekura I hadn't been exposed to any medical studies that really explored that world, which is why attending Awanuiārangi really helped me in building a foundation in medical studies.”
This year Aroha was one of the winners of the NZ Young Nurse of the Year Award from the NZ Nurses Organisation (NZNO).
The award celebrates nursing at an excellent level within the health sector, it also recognises that recipients have reached a high level in their everyday work.
According to her co-workers, Aroha incorporates Māori cultural awareness within their centre.
Dr Indina Edwards of Kawerau Medical Centre says, “As a doctor working here, I find that her familiarity with the language and communication is very useful for me in delivering good care to the patients.”
Aroha says she will continue with her studies with the long term goal of becoming a doctor.