From Careers Event to Registered Nurse

Graduand Katelyn London at the Nursing Pinning Ceremony

Friday, 15 Jan 2021

A chance opportunity five years ago to attend a careers event with a friend opened the door for 21-year-old Katelyn London to become a Registered Nurse.

“My friend wanted to go to a careers lecture about nursing and she didn’t want to go alone, so I went along. While I was there I really enjoyed the talk and thought I could see myself doing that,” says the Rotorua local, who completed her degree at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology with a pinning ceremony on Friday, 15 January.

Katelyn and 14 other nursing classmates will formally graduate with a Bachelor of Nursing on 13 April 2021 at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre.  

A student at John Paul College when she attended the careers event, Katelyn (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) made sure she studied what was required to follow a Registered Nurse pathway by adding maths and science subjects to her studies.

“Once I’d decided to become a nurse I made sure I gained NCEA Level 3 and University Entrance and completed the subjects to prepare myself for my degree.”

Nursing runs in Katelyn’s whānau; her great-grandmother was a nurse overseas during World War II, two of her aunties are nurses; one is an ICU nurse, and the other in a private hospital. Her grandmother was a health care assistant in the Maternity Ward and nowadays is a Clinical Equipment Coordinator for the Lakes District Health Board.

“My grandma started training to be a nurse, but then she had children and didn‘t end up completing it, so she was extremely happy that I finished, as it was something she never got to finish.”

On 15 February Katelyn will start her working career at Lakes DHB in Rotorua Hospital’s Medical Ward under the Nurse Entry to Practise (NETP) programme.

“I was extremely happy and grateful when I found out I was going to be working in the Medical Unit. It’s where I completed my final clinical placement as a student nurse. All the staff were so welcoming and I really enjoyed being in an environment where I was continuously learning, which was a big part of wanting to work there.”

Throughout her studies, Katelyn has been supported by Kia Ora Hauora, the national Māori health workforce development programme.

“I registered with Kia Ora Hauora in my final year at high school, so I’ve been lucky to have their support throughout my studies. I wasn’t aware about scholarships or know the process of applying for them. They helped me identify which ones I could apply for, helped me Identify my whakapapa, and supported me in my journey as a student nurse. I’m really grateful because without them I wouldn’t have got any scholarships this year. They’ve been awesome.”

This year Katelyn received the Hauora Māori Health Scholarship (Ministry of Health), Māori Education Trust Bachelor of Nursing Scholarship, and the Florence Nightingale Memorial Award (New Zealand Nurses Organisation).

Through her relationship with Kia Ora Hauora, Katelyn also started a 10-week studentship programme in November aimed at giving students experience in a healthcare setting with a specific focus on achieving health equity for Māori. Her project is looking at ways to increase participation in the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccination campaign for Māori and is giving her first-hand experience of working within a healthcare practice in a high-needs community.

Katelyn says while her nursing studies and placements have been rewarding, 2020 has been “hard work”, especially dealing with Covid-19. She counts herself lucky to have the support of her partner and his mother who she lives with to avoid the early morning communities to placements she once faced living with her parents, 40 minutes from town. She also gave up part-time work and the extra income it brought in, mid-way through her second year to allow her more time to focus on her studies.

“Throughout my degree, I’ve had many highs and lows. My grandfather passed away in the first year of my degree and a student nursing sister passed away this year. And although these both affected me a lot, they also helped drive me to achieve my goal of becoming a Registered Nurse,” she says.

“Covid put a lot more pressure on us nursing students this year and some were not coping, some left for personal reasons, others left to help support their families, it was tough.”

As to the immediate future, Katelyn wants to make the most of her time in the medical ward, but would also like to work in emergency and surgical departments or an Intensive Care Unit. She also has a longer-term goal of being a nurse practitioner.

“It’s always been the goal to end up being a nurse practitioner, but as a registered nurse there are endless opportunities, so I am going to continue studying and work my way up. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you need to take a holistic approach to nursing, just because patients come in with a certain condition – it’s never the whole story. You need to look at what’s going on for them emotionally and physically, etcetera – in every aspect of their care.

“I know I definitely want to be in a position to give back to my Māori community. When I was younger I spent a lot of time out in Murupara with my family where my grandparents lived. I’d like to practise out there, maybe in a clinic - I’ve always thought about going back. Unfortunately, my grandparents aren’t here anymore, but it’s still home to me.”

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