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Three nursing graduates are excited to be starting their careers in healthcare and owe it, in part, to the foundational knowledge they gained while still at high school.

Charlotte Bish, Jenna Newton and Paige Wright became friends at New Plymouth’s Sacred Heart Girls’ College. It was their shared interest in health that brought them together.

“We all liked health and biology and were all in similar classes,” Charlotte said. “I don’t know if we all kind of knew we wanted to be nurses or whether it was an idea we kind of had in mind at the time.”

Nursing Graduates, Jenna Newton, Paige Wright and Charlotte Bish

Gateway programme inspired trio to pursue nursing careers

To explore their interests further, when the trio heard about their school offering a Gateway programme through Careerforce, they all enrolled in year 12. Careerforce, a business division of Te Pūkenga, offers a range of Gateway packages that provide students with opportunities to access structured workplace learning, and introduces them to the plentiful and rewarding range of careers available in the growing health, wellbeing, social and community sectors.

As part of the programme, the students were placed into work experience at Taranaki Base Hospital, where they could shadow and learn from a healthcare assistant.

“It was really cool being able to follow a healthcare assistant around and see how a hospital runs, Charlotte said. “We were already learning how to communicate with patients. It grew the love for where we are now.”

Alongside work experience, the students could work through the theoretical unit standards to help build their foundational knowledge needed for working in the health sector, and achieve credits towards NZQA qualifications.

“The good thing is it’s all individual learning. You can do them as fast or as slow as you want. You can take as much time as you need,” Charlotte said.

Dyslexia was no barrier to success for two of the students

Even better was having the support of local Careerforce advisor, Jo Titchener, who was able to cater to everyone’s individual learning needs – particularly for Jenna and Charlotte who both have dyslexia.

“Jo was really supportive at building a framework for each of us to individually work on, that fitted our lifestyle outside of school, and how well we could cope with doing each paper and how long it may take us,” said Charlotte, who also has an auditory processing disorder.

With the right supports in place, they each felt confident to work towards the full Level 3 qualification that was on offer.

“We all thought it’d be a good idea to just kind of kick start our health career while still at school, and it meant that we could get part time jobs as healthcare assistants while studying and getting paid a little bit more than the average student,” Charlotte said.

By the end of year 13 and before they parted ways to study nursing in different cities, they had each achieved the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Level 3) Health Assistance.

The three women enthusiastically agreed that the Gateway programme gave them a head start with their nursing degrees.

Gateway programmes help you decide if it’s what you want to do as a career

Charlotte said because there was a big focus on dementia and aged residential care in her first year of nursing, she could use a lot of her notes from Gateway. “We had massive booklets on dementia and pressure injuries. Even skills like hand hygiene, which we’d already done and were then able to apply to nursing.”

Jenna also noted that a lot of people sometimes go into nursing but drop out in the first year because they realise it’s not for them. “Doing Gateway during school gives you an idea on whether it’s what you want to do as a future career.”

Taranaki National Executive Representative for New Zealand’s Careers and Transition Education Association (CATE) and Sacred Heart Girls’ College Pathways Leader, Warwick Foy, agrees: “Gateway is a low-stakes way to have a go at your chosen occupation. Far better to find out if it’s for you or not before embarking on expensive training.”

As the main driver behind the Gateway programme at Sacred Heart Girls’ College, Warwick gives credit to the workplaces who open their doors to students to gain invaluable on-job experience.

The graduates all landed their first full-time nursing jobs

“We know that every engagement with an employer has value. Schools do a great job of preparing young people for life in many ways but oddly, not so much for the workplace. Gateway does this superbly! At school, we need to always be thinking about how our teaching is relevant to the next steps of the student. Again, Gateway helps us do this,” he says.

Since graduating from their nursing degrees at the end of 2023, Charlotte, Jenna and Paige are now all placed in their first full-time nursing jobs. Charlotte is working in the general medical ward at Palmerston North Hospital, Jenna works in orthopaedics at Taranaki Base Hospital and Paige is working in NICU at Waikato Hospital. All three are excited to go to work each day knowing that they’re helping people.

“It’s great building therapeutic relationships with patients while knowing that you’re getting them that one step closer back to normal life,” Jenna said.

“You know you’re going to work and you’re going to help people, and you’re making a difference in people’s lives. Even if it’s just a small difference each day, you’re still helping people,” Paige said.

Charlotte agrees: “Nursing is a rollercoaster. One day can be amazing, the next can be all over the place. But no matter how my day has been – whether good or bad – I know I’m always doing something good by helping others.”

More about Careerforce Gateway options

Careerforce Gateway programmes provide high school students with the opportunities to learn in the workplace and match their career ideas and values to possible careers in the health and wellbeing sectors.

Explore Careerforce Gateway options.