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New Health Facility After 22 years of Teaching

New Health Facility After 22 years of Groundbreaking Teaching

18 June 2008.

The Prime Minister will officially open a new Whitireia Health Education and Social Sciences building in Porirua this afternoon. This centre recognises the value of excellent teaching that has developed over 22 years.

The Porirua campus of Whitireia Community Polytechnic has a contemporary steel  and architectural look to it these days. The investment in industry technologies, part of a focused strategy there, puts money into applied teaching facilities – to the tune of $30M over the last four years. The results are astounding – all the more so for being funded almost completely from Whitireia reserves. “We support and develop excellence in our programmes says Whitireia Chief Executive Don Campbell. Our health programmes have an exemplary record of delivering work ready, in-demand graduates. From humble beginnings we have forged the best nursing degrees in the country.”

The focus on graduates’ skills is a feature of this polytechnic. Although it sits right on the harbour’s edge, the campus projects innovation and contemporary work readiness more than communal student relaxation. The new award winning library, built in 2005, is the busiest polytechnic library in the country. It is the core that supports health degrees as well as post graduate study.

It’s a long way from the first Diploma in Nursing offered by Whitireia in 1986 in a couple of prefabricated classrooms we borrowed from Mana College says Dr. Margaret Southwick. When I started as a tutor we had so little equipment, we borrowed bowls, wheelchairs, towels. We didn’t take swabs out of their packets but mimed the use of them in wound cleaning and returned the unopened packets to the shelves.”

The nursing programmes were developed in response to community need. Russell Marshall, then Minister of Education, specifically wanted to do something about Porirua communities’ involvement in nursing. “Polytechnics and Porirua, as well as nursing as a career option were not seen consistently in positive terms in the early years says Dr. Southwick. When we developed our degree we had to prove that we could match the old system of in-hospital training of nurses. It was a courageous move to do something that would make a difference for people here. In 2004 we launched the Bachelor in Nursing (Pacific). The curriculum really wrote itself, it dropped right out of the statistics on health.”

In 2008 it is clear from the numbers that success has grown progressively through the years. The allocated places in nursing training fill quickly. Employers choose Whitireia nursing graduates because they are well grounded, ready to work, approachable and hard working. Whitireia has become a leading provider of post graduate training, specifically in core strength areas of mental health and primary health care.

22 years on, a dedicated health facility is not before time. The building will be called Wikitoria Katene, after a local nurse. Katene tended soldiers in North Africa during WWII. Renowned for her compassion despite extremely difficult conditions, she received a military commendation. On her return she worked with rehabilitating soldiers and as a Welfare Officer with Maori Affairs. She was awarded a QSM in 1992.

 
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