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An unlikely introduction at a Zumba class is how Dana Field landed her dream job in aged care.

“You’ll hear me before you see me,” claims the busy mum of four, who works at Pahiatua’s Waireka Lifecare, a rest home for up to 60 residents in the Tararua district.

“My manager knows I’ve got entertainment in my genes,” Dana says. “She actually met me at a local community Zumba class where I was the class clown. I didn’t want people new to the class to feel awkward or out of sorts. I wasn’t leading the class, but I would always be up the front making all the silly noises, being an absolute egg.”

Dana leads a programme of activities as a diversional therapist

Colouring in hearts for Valentine’s Day, Dana Field sits with Waireka Lifecare resident, Kevin Benge

Waireka Lifecare manager, Carol Hauraki, knew she’d found the right person to be the rest home’s new diversional therapist, a role that leads a programme of fun activities and events to encourage residents to maintain or develop their physical and social skills.

At the time, Dana was working as a community support worker but says, “the travel got too much and by that point I had four kids, and I didn’t want to work weekends anymore.”

When Carol asked Dana if she’d apply for the job, Dana admits she had no idea what a diversional therapist even did. “I had to Google what it was. But I was like, wow, that’s me! That’s one hundred per cent me!”

Now, two years on, you’ll find Dana between Monday and Friday at Waireka Lifecare, joining the residents with all sorts of activities like baking, chair exercises, pet days, bowls, and singing and dancing at happy hour. Hangman is also a favourite: “They just enjoy outsmarting my wits,” Dana laughs.

Dana even dressed up in costume every day in December until Christmas: “I am here for their entertainment,” she jokes. “It’s the Dana Show!”

According to Carol, the residents love her and the energy she brings: “She’s always engaging with them, and she goes above and beyond to find out about them as an individual, and what they need and want, and making that happen.”

Her skills have been formalised through Careerforce’s level 4 apprenticeship 

Many diversional therapists working across New Zealand’s aged care sector are required to gain their Level 4 Health and Wellbeing qualification, and Dana has been no exception. Upon joining the team, she was quickly enrolled in the NZ Apprenticeship in Diversional Therapy through Careerforce | Te Pūkenga.

However, she was nervous about the idea of studying again. After high school she started training to be an early childhood teacher but found university wasn’t for her. Then, when she tried again through Open Polytechnic, she struggled to balance study while raising her first two children, so had to put it to the side.

But thanks to Carol’s support, she’s been able to complete the workplace-based apprenticeship programme well ahead of schedule. Carol gave her a study day each week, a day when her kids were at school or in day care.

Carol says Dana’s Careerforce Apprenticeship Advisor, Anne Meyer, has also been instrumental in Dana’s success.

“Anne was always there, always supporting and arranging study days. I don’t think Dana would’ve got through this as quickly as she did without Anne.

“Dana’s got a new sense of energy. She’s got a newfound confidence in herself and she’s just out there doing it big time. I’m just really proud of her,” Carol says.

Waireka manager Carol Hauraki (left) with Dana and Careerforce Apprenticeship Advisor Anne Meyer

Dana now makes it her morning tradition to go and see every single resident in the rest home. She’s come across people who don’t leave their room but says, “they enjoy conversation, and people absolutely need to feel important.”

Dana loves being the reason people smile

The most satisfying thing for Dana is seeing her residents smile and even hearing from people in the community tell her that she’s doing a great job. She’s also incredibly proud of herself for becoming a qualified diversional therapist, especially while continuing to work and be a mum to four kids who all have crazy sleeping patterns.

“The feeling is unbelievable. When I got the email to say it was done, you could not wipe the smile off my face. I want more now, and I want more knowledge. I just want to be the best.

“I never thought I’d work in a rest home but Waireka has a very special place in my heart,” Dana says. “I love being the reason people smile.”

More information

  • Learn more about our Diversional Therapy Apprenticeship, including eligibility and pricing.
  • Employers can also receive $500/mth Apprenticeship Boost payments for apprentices within their first 24 months, available until December 2024.