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Saturday 10 February 2024 | Written by Candice Luke | Published in Health, National


Cook Islands nursing students off to New Zealand for final year of study
Bachelor of Nursing Pacifics first cohort with Dr Neti Tamarua Herman (PhD). CANDICE LUKE/ 24020865

Twelve Bachelor of Nursing Pacific students have made it to their final year of studies under the programme, run in conjunction with Te Marae Ora (TMO) Ministry of Health, Whitireia Polytechnic and University of the South Pacific

The students fly out to New Zealand today, for nine months of practical training in Wellington. 

The cohort was celebrated and given words of wisdom and advice by esteemed nurses and Te Marae Ora officials at their farewell at USP Cook Islands campus on Thursday. 

Student Sinano Vaeau, 24, comes from a long line of health professionals.

“My grandmother was a maternity nurse. My mother is a maternity nurse. My cousin is a nurse. And my dad was the manager for public health.”

She was always interested in biology in school, and has a Diploma in Dentistry.

“I want to develop my skills further. I won’t stop,” Vaeau said.

“At the interview for the course they asked me where I see myself in 10 years’ time. I’ll be in that secretary seat, or the Minister of Health,” she said with a confident smile. 

But the 24-year-old mother of two knows the path to her goals won’t be easy.

“I’ve got big dreams, but with big dreams comes big responsibilities.” 

Students were reminded to support each other, get the fundamentals right, and to be sure to come home to bring their knowledge back and serve their people. 

Acting Secretary of Health Teariki Faireka and nursing lecturer Mirella Simpson made a special announcement – a name change of the programme’s cohorts, in honour of two Cook Islands nursing stalwarts. 

The first cohort heading to New Zealand have been named after Dr Neti Tamarua Herman. The next cohort to start this year will be the namesake of Upoko Takau Matapo.

Both celebrated nurses were present to offer advice and wisdom.

Matapo told the students: “Always remember the uniform you wear is a symbol of honour, a symbol of love, a symbol of service. You are serving the Lord.”

She encouraged them to look to God and pray through the challenges they face: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Dr Neti was taken by surprise by the naming: “I didn’t expect that. It’s an honour.” 

The retired nursing doctor has dedicated her life to the public health sector in the Cook Islands, Aotearoa, Australia and Fiji – with a special focus on the well-being of young people. 

She advocates for Cook Islands nurses to go further in their studies with the end goal of returning home to be the next generation of highly skilled healthcare professionals.

“I’m very passionate about educating and getting our nurses up to international levels.”

Instrumental in finding funding for Cook Islands nurses to further their careers, she has put her support behind nurse Metua Danies-Atutolu, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in New Zealand with the intent of returning home upon completion.

She is ready to connect students who want to keep studying past the end of this course.

“We need to build up our young people to replace the ones that are retiring.”

The next intake, the Upoko Takau Matapo cohort, still has spaces for 2024. Potential applicants can contact Mirella Simpson (51017) or Denise Puangi (75142).