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Awhina Tapiata has earned the Sacha McKnight Cup for 2017

“Perseverance and stickability” against the odds has earned star Bachelor of Nursing student Awhina Tapiata the Sacha McKnight Cup for 2017.

The cup is awarded to a student who has shown tenacity and overcome personal challenges to succeed. It was established by the family of Sacha McKnight and is given in her memory. Sacha McKnight was a rising star who passed away during her first year of nursing due to cancer.

Awhina was chosen because she has persisted through her studies despite many personal trials. These included incredible loss, grief and mental health related issues amongst her own family. “I have seen the positive impact that mental health nursing can have and I want to be a part of that journey to wellbeing for others”.

Identifying with Te Arawa and Ngati Porou, Awhina considers her nursing practice centres on principles nurtured by an upbringing in Te Ao Maori (the Maori world). She is part of Te Kaunihera o Nga Neehi Maori Waitaha Branch (National Maori Nursing Council) and the Ara Māori Student Rōpu.

Now 26, Awhina is currently completing her final transition placement at Hillmorton Hospital where she is in her element working in mental health. She will sit her state registration exam in November and will then look for employment in Canterbury, Wellington and Rotorua.

“I absolutely love it,” she says. “I completed my second year mental health placement at Hillmorton and I immediately knew that mental health was for me. Mental Health as a field of nursing is more aligned with my personal belief system, because it is essentially holistic. With a focus on therapeutic relationships - nursing in this field relies less on the biomedical model of health and more on the social model, more patient-centered. This is where I excel.”

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Awhina said despite some challenging days and working with people who can be acutely unwell “there is nowhere else I would rather be”.

Awhina once held aspirations to be a professional squash player and was a stalwart representative for Squash Bay of Plenty for most of her pre-teen/teenage years before moving overseas. Upon returning to New Zealand, Awhina worked in administration and kohanga reo. She then moved to Christchurch alongside her family and pursued nursing at Ara Institute of Canterbury.

Ara is proud of its student support systems and Awhina reaffirms this having stated “the nursing Academic staff strongly advocates for me and I am incredibly grateful for their support. For example, when I was dealing with self-harming and suicide attempts amongst my inner circle, the team here continued to support and encourage my efforts.”

“In nursing, we like to see the application of theory and she has achieved that,” nursing Academic staff member Anna Richardson said. “Awhina has done so well and she is just glowing.”


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