It started with a connection made between the Immunisation Advisory Centre’s (IMAC) Pasifika Engagement Advisor Siufofoga Matagi and Whitireia New Zealand’s Bachelor of Nursing Pacific Programme Manager Tania Mullane. They were united in their vision to continuously improve career pathways for Pasifika in the health sector, and the knowledge that having more Pasifika vaccinators (currently underrepresented in the workforce) on board to support New Zealand’s COVID-19 vaccination programme should be linked with better vaccination outcomes for Tagata Pasifika in New Zealand.
Last year, IMAC developed a new pathway to fast track more health professionals to become vaccinators and support the anticipated growing demand on this workforce. Known as the Provisional Vaccinator Foundation Course (PVFC), this option allows for a wider scope of health professionals to train as vaccinators – including third year nursing students – and while granting provisional authorisation status at the end, the long-term vision remains that this workforce can convert to a greatly expanded and transformed way of vaccinating now and into the future.
Tania and Siufofoga saw this opportunity and seized it. Why not integrate this training into the third-year programme for the Bachelor of Nursing Pasifika students at Whitireia? In doing so they could make the pathway to gaining qualifications as a vaccinator easier, and tailor the programme especially with a Pasifika lens.
Tania explains that the third year of the Bachelor of Nursing programme is focused on students considering their role as a nurse and already included immunisation and primary healthcare engagement. The opportunity the IMAC’s training presented was to further build on and enhance their learning whilst gaining a vaccinator qualification.
She says: “In introducing the programme, we talked about the urgent need for more vaccinators in our community, and how upskilling in this area can act as a gift for our students to put into their kete and give to their Pacific community. We seek to engage students through helping them understand ‘what’s my why’ in becoming a nurse.”
Siufofoga adds, “this vaccinator course has provided a rare platform for students to maximise their learning potential, enhance their critical thinking and make them genuinely feel valued and a part of the wider health workforce. It’s a great way of gradually building up their courage and competence within the clinical practice settings, in their aspirations towards becoming capable and confident, registered nurses.”
While first introduced to the Whitireia Bachelor of Nursing programme through the Pasifika stream, the training has also been integrated into the parallel Maori and mainstream nursing programmes at Whitireia. This means there are now over 40 Maori and Pacific provisional vaccinators through Whitireia and IMAC’s partnership model.
There are several stages involved in working through the PVFC and it has involved a team effort from IMAC’s COVID-19 clinical education team based in the central region, led by Regional Advisor Melanie Miller. The latest was an all-hands-on-deck simulation clinic day at the Whitieria campus on Friday 16 July, peer-assessing a total of 47 students in their final step to becoming provisionally authorised to vaccinate.
Sala Eastwood, a busy mum in her final year of a Bachelor of Nursing Pacific, was one of the students who did the immunisation training and explains what a great opportunity it was. “I’m very grateful for being able to get this training. In a weird way, COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise for nursing students as we are now getting these opportunities.”
Sala is excited about going out and empowering her community to get vaccinated. “It is great to be part of the solution. I have already put my name down to help at a Porirua COVID-19 vaccination clinic later this month,” Sala says.