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Testing is an essential part of New Zealand’s COVID-19 elimination strategy. By identifying cases, the virus can be stamped out before it has had a chance to spread widely.

According to the Ministry of Health, increasing the COVID-19 testing workforce is critical to managing current testing demand, workforce sustainability as well as planning, preparedness and capacity to respond to future outbreaks.

Registered nurses and medical personnel have been the mainstay of the COVID-19 swabbing workforce, with health care assistants often providing administrative support at testing sites.

By upskilling additional health care assistants or kaiāwhina to perform COVID-19 swabbing, the over reliance on registered nurses and medical personnel to carry out this task is reduced.

To help grow the ‘swabbing workforce’, the Ministry of Health approached industry training organisation (ITO), Careerforce to develop a new learning module.

Careerforce is the ITO for the broader health and wellbeing sectors and develops learning and assessment resources that the health and disability workforce use to gain formal qualifications.

The Ministry of Health had already collaborated with Careerforce earlier in the year to create five COVID-19 related learning modules. These modules provided useful advice on how to support family and whānau during the pandemic and halt the spread of the virus.

The new e-learning will help to upskill kaiāwhina workers to perform COVID-19 swabbing under supervision. It is stage 1 in a 3-step process that can be used to prepare learners for their practical training, and practical assessment.

This work supports the Kaiāwhina Workforce Action Plan – a key goal of which is to develop kaiāwhina as a more flexible workforce with new roles and extended scopes of practice that better meet the needs of the public.

More information about the Learning module to support healthcare workers with COVID-19 swabbing is available on the Ministry of Health website.


Kaiāwhina is the term used to describe non-registered roles in the health sector. This may include healthcare assistants, support workers, community health workers or Whānau support workers. Kaiāwhina add value to the workforce by performing their roles well, being flexible and providing support to the health  sector and registered health professionals.  (Workforce in Action, 2020)

A registered health professional might be a registered nurse or doctor.