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Auckland DHB’s Health Care Assistant Programme gave 18 new cadets the opportunity to start a career in healthcare. The latest cadetship has seen Auckland DHB partner with industry training organisation Careerforce to deliver work-based learning, with an on-the-job approach, embedded with Pacific pedagogy.

The programme, which has been in place since 2016, is an important mechanism for reducing barriers to participation in the health workforce and creating opportunity for wider pathways into health careers for Māori and Pacific.

Nurse Educator, Augustina Reid, said that having the flexibility in delivering this programme worked very well for them. They managed to make it their own to meet the learning needs of the cadets and the requirements of the workplace.

“We can choose where to start and which modules to have them study first based on the individual cadet’s needs and the needs of the clinical wards they were to be assigned to. They learnt skills that they needed right now.”

The partnership with Careerforce works according to Reid. “The support we received was fantastic and the modules or learning resources were helpful and easy to use.”

The cadetship programme provides opportunity for young people in the community as well as current non clinical hospital staff who wish to staircase up within the DHB.

“When we choose people to do our programme, we weren’t looking for perfect young people, or perfect cleaners or orderlies. We were looking for people who would use this programme as a stepping stone that would open up opportunities for them and transform their lives.  We want to help them grow so they can give back to their families and whānau, and give back to the community.”

Pauline Martin did just that – she took the cadetship programme as an opportunity to move from being a hospital cleaner to becoming a healthcare assistant. “It was an excellent programme to be on. It’s given an opportunity for people like myself who have not been in education for a while. I think the beauty of this programme is that it gave us an opportunity to work hands on, to learn the practical skills that we needed to do, and implement it into our written work. It is much easier to do it that way.”

Martin said she felt well-supported throughout the programme and found the whole experience to be an eye opener. She got assigned to different wards that enhanced her learning experience. “It was great to work alongside, and be trained by brilliant health professionals. I was able to use various equipment and help with the patients. I feel quite blessed to be able to do that because that’s my passion – to help people in need, people that are sick, or just be there for someone to talk to for comfort. I was able to use best practices within my wards.”

Martin says her family is very proud that she has been able to complete the programme and achieve a nationally recognised qualification, the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Health Assistance) Level 3. She thinks of her late father who inspired her to get into the healthcare industry. “I’m now able to say yes, I’ve done it, I’m a healthcare assistant and I’m qualified. I know what I’m doing.”

Sascha Henry, another cadet in the programme, was so fuelled with inspiration that she decided to pursue nursing soon after she completed the cadetship programme “This cadetship helped me take the next step. I don’t think I would have gone on to nursing if I didn’t have this behind me. For me, learning and gaining the hands-on experience, really made me want to do nursing. As a healthcare assistant, you see nurses do so much and it made want to be that person helping that patient.”

Henry is now studying nursing with a focus on Māori health. “Being a young Māori-Pasifika, and hearing about the statistics of our people in health, it really made me want to push to be in there. I want to make a difference for our people within the health sector. I believe I have found my calling.”

She encourages other young people to work in healthcare and consider all educational pathways.

“I would highly recommend on-the-job learning, gaining practical experience. We need more of our whānau looking after our whānau. I encourage young people to join the health sector.”

Auckland DHB management believes in, and values this investment. Reid says they want to see young people succeed and provide opportunities for staff to upskill. “We want to see them become professionals someday. This is just a starting point. Then they will be able to help their families and the community. When they learn more about health, they go back home and share their knowledge about health and that helps their community.”