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Fighting Covid on Many Fronts at Ara

Getting in front of Covid before it hits the South Island is part of the plan for Ara Institute of Canterbury. With cases of the Delta variant inching southwards towards Christchurch, Ara is helping to battle the deadly virus on many fronts.

DSC00804.JPGAra nursing student Andrea McAleer contributes to the fight against Covid as a provisional vaccinator at Ngā Hau e Whā vaccination clinic, with Rob Eder vaccination recipient.

“We know that our Māori and Pacific communities are the least vaccinated parts of our population,” says Te Marino Lenihan, Executive Director Te Tiriti Partnerships. “We also know that our rangatahi – but all young people really – have been the last on the priority list to get protected against this virus. Our ‘by rangatahi, for rangatahi’ movement with other community leaders will empower our youth to be the champions of their own destiny.”

From tomorrow Tuesday 19 October, Ara will be hosting a series of vaccination clinics at three of its six campuses in Christchurch and Timaru. As part of the campus clinics free bacon butties, burgers and prize draws will be on offer, surrounded by an atmosphere focussed on information, whānau and fun, says Lenihan. 

“This is our small contribution to wider regional and national efforts to vaccinate our communities,” says Lenihan. “If we remain the least vaccinated, then we will be the most vulnerable and this is a serious risk for our whānau and their wellbeing. This is about whānau ora, making informed decisions, and being good ancestors.”

Throughout Christchurch, Ara’s third-year nursing students work as provisional vaccinators for their clinical work placements, gaining real-life experience while contributing to the frontline of Covid prevention efforts. 

Ngā Hau e Whā marae vaccination clinic is where Andrea McAleer is gaining nursing experience as a Covid provisional vaccinator. Wanting to learn more about Māori health practice and tikanga, she requested a work placement on the marae. “I hadn’t experienced anything like it before,” she says. “It really opened my eyes to different ways of healthcare – like focussing on the whole, the whānau, instead of the individual.”

DSC00819.JPGAra nursing students Andrea McAleer (left) and Danielle Taylor gain career-changing experience at Ngā Hau e Whā marae vaccination clinic.

McAleer, who was born in Scotland, said this experience has made her change where she might work as a fully-trained nurse next year. “I really like work in the community – that might be my focus for the first part of my career,” she says.

Clinic Site Lead Alice Nicol says that the experience of dealing with health challenges presented at the clinic, such as mental health issues and anxiety, expands the knowledge of the nursing students. “Helping people feel at ease is a big part of nursing, and here on the marae, we do this with manaakitanga, allowing everyone – not just Māori – to feel comfortable here.”

Behind the frontline of nursing, Ara is collaborating with an overseas tertiary institution to help ensure its nursing practices align with international best practice. Students and staff at Niigata College of Nursing in Japan will meet online with Ara’s nursing community in a forum on nursing in a Covid era.

“We’ll look at how the health response from within New Zealand compares with the response in Japan,” says John Grant, Head of Department – Health Practice.   “We’ll discuss different strategies of how to limit or manage Covid, it’s impact on hospitals, and what that means for nurses themselves.”

Grant says the forum’s content is across the many activities where nurses play a key role in the pandemic, including Covid quarantine facilities, vaccination rollout, testing, and even contact tracing.  More broadly, the two nursing communities will address how Covid has changed nursing practices in mental health and aged care facilities, schools, and primary healthcare practices.

“As Covid becomes the focal point of healthcare across the world,” says Grant, “we’re doing what we can to get in front of it.”