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Kimi Cowan-Smith is progressing through a qualification pathway to help people take better control of their lives.

The Christchurch based Health Coach inspires her clients to make lifestyle changes, that have life changing impacts on their physical health. 

In just two years at Pathways, Kimi has helped countless people manage their weight, reverse diabetes, and improve their lives. She has been able to use models of behaviour change to enhance her practice.

Kimi Cowan-Smith, Health Coach at Pathways, completes her Level 5 Health and Wellbeing Diploma

Pathways is a mental health and addictions, social services provider, that has supported Kimi to complete a journey of her own, recently gaining a Level 5 Diploma in Health and Wellbeing Applied Practice (Health Coach) with Careerforce | Te Pūkenga. 

Kimi has a combined health coach and support worker role (health coach flex) which means she is both based in a GP practice and able to connect into the community as well.

We see what changes we can make for a better health and lifestyle

“I work with people with diabetes or with kidney illnesses. I look at the person’s overall picture and listen to what the person is telling me, and we work together to see what we can change for a better health and lifestyle. And I definitely see the changes.” says Kimi.

“It’s not just a weight loss programme, it could be figuring out how much sugar they are eating, or reading and understanding labels. As a support worker I also help them with paperwork, such as completing disability forms and I support people to go to medical appointments.

“One woman hadn’t presented at the doctors for a couple of years, but now we’ve got her into a pattern where I collect her and take her to the doctors and it’s clear she is increasing her health for the better.

“One of my clients has managed to kick diabetes back. Her HbA1c started at 51, and is now down to 39. HbA1c is a finger prick test used to measure glucose sugar levels, and to diagnose type 2 diabetes. A reading over 50 mmol/mol means you’re starting to get into that diabetic stage and heading towards being insulin dependent.”

Kimi’s entry to the health and wellbeing sector began as a community support worker in a residential home just a few years ago. Initially with zero health care skills or qualifications, Kimi kicked off her learning journey with a Health and Wellbeing Level 2 qualification.

This was soon followed by the Level 3 qualification, and then the Level 4 Apprenticeship in Disability Support with Careerforce, a business division of Te Pūkenga. All have been achieved via on-the-job training, allowing Kimi to ‘earn and learn.’  

“I was looking for something new to learn after the apprenticeship, when I heard about the Diploma in Health and Wellbeing Applied Practice. I’m quite passionate about learning and so I wanted to learn more. I was motivated to keep moving up the ladder, so I jumped straight on it.”

Pathways and Careerforce supported Kimi with her Health and Wellbeing Diploma 

The Health and Wellbeing diploma is also completed via work-based learning supported by online learning resources and assessments. Each diploma learner is assigned a dedicated Careerforce assessor who provides one-on-one coaching throughout the learning.

Careerforce assessor Joanna Martino was assigned to Kimi.

“It was great to have Joanna. It was very relaxed. We’d have a coffee and discuss the things I was stuck on, and talk through what the issue was. Joanna was a big support throughout the course,” says Kimi.

Left to right: Kimi Cowan-Smith with Careerforce Assessor Joanna Martino, and cohort colleague Janice

“You’re not out there on your own. You’ve got the support of a Careerforce person all the time. You also don’t have the strict, structured time limit as such. The assessor coaches you along.”

Kimi was in a cohort with fellow learner Janice. “I really enjoyed working with Janice and Joanna. I haven’t worked in a cohort before, and I learned to be mindful of where my peer was at in her study. Because of her work commitments, she was unable to finish with me. But I was able to support her after I had finished,” says Kimi.

“Pathways were a great support as well. My team leader Sharon Necklen was an awesome support. We could also take study leave, but I found that I didn’t need to use it.

“There was a lot [in the programme] about looking inside yourself, self-reflection, which I wasn’t that great on.

“The reflective part gives you feedback – with some things, I learnt that yes, I do know what I’m doing. Sometimes I learnt to approach things in a different way. For example, rather than leaping in with the question, think about reframing it to make the person feel more comfortable and ask permission first. e.g., ‘I’ve got a couple of questions around smoking and drinking. Is that OK?’ rather than ‘do you smoke?’

“I was lucky to be able to complete the diploma is less than the 18 months, partly because some of the units I had already completed were cross credited with the apprenticeship.

“I really recommend that others do the programme and have encouraged others to do it and to learn more.

“For me, I’d like to move straight into something else. I’m not sure where to go next in my learning, but I’m looking at Peer support and if a Level 6 came along I would do that as well,” says Kimi.

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