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Reigniting joy for older people during the last phase of their lives is a career that is truly life changing for young wahine Māori Yazmin Te-Amohanga, Ngati Maniapoto, Tainui.

‘Yaz’, 27, is pursuing a career as a diversional therapist, currently working at Calvary Hospital in Invercargill where she recently completed a Level 4 Certificate in Diversional Therapy through Industry Training Organisation, Careerforce.

Yazmin Te-Amohanga

Personal experience drives interest in care worker career

Her decision to work in the healthcare, care and support industry was influenced by her love and respect for her foster father who lived with muscular dystrophy, and her own experience of mental illness.

She’d had to stop nursing studies after being diagnosed with PTSD, spurred by an intensely stressful schedule of full-time study, working on the weekends to pay her student loan as well as being a busy stepmother co-parenting her partner’s three children.

“The symptoms were overwhelming. I just couldn’t go anywhere, not even shopping and I never thought I’d be able to work in a healthcare setting.”

Gradually things did improve over a year and half of rest and support, and she reached the point where she was ready to work. That’s when she started in caregiving at Calvary.

Privileged to support residents

Yaz thrived in her role as a care giver and then when the opportunity arose, applied for the role of an activities co-ordinator and started her apprenticeship in diversional therapy, graduating in May 2022 – a hugely supportive, earn-as-you learn pathway back into healthcare.

“It’s just such a privilege to be here and work as part of the whānau, of diversional therapists, nurses, nurse aids and the manager to support the medical and holistic needs of our residents. I love that.

Whilst initially Yaz’ ambition was to be a nurse and she’s now on a strong pathway – working as a diversional therapist has awakened a new passion.

“Everyone is telling me I should go back to nursing, but my heart is pulling me towards dementia studies. I’m so interested in not only learning ways to help prevent dementia but to find ways to help people with dementia manage their symptoms and find joy with more than just medications. If I could do that I would, and that’s what I’m really drawn to do.”

She also wants to inspire other young adults diagnosed with PTSD.

“Just know that the symptoms are manageable if you give yourself time to heal and don’t give up on whatever career you wish to pursue. It’s still possible!”

Training helps diversional therapist pursue career goals

Yaz is on track with her dream career and brings the insight and compassion from her own experiences to her work.

“I love seeing the residents come to life. It’s such an important stage of their lives and there’s no reason not to feel purpose and fulfilment at 90 or 100 or even 103 like one resident I worked with. She loved entertainment and going on walks and one-on-one individual time together.”

Yaz also loves how her work can reveal the unique skills, knowledge, and life experiences of the residents – such as the pianist who hadn’t touched the piano for years and started to play while sitting next to Yaz noodling on the keys.

“Our residents teach me every day who they are.”

More information about gaining a qualification in Diversional Therapy