Newly qualified nurse aims to improve kaumātua life expectancy

The Māori and Pacific Admissions Scheme (MAPAS) 2022 event celebrates Aotearoa New Zealand’s future change-makers in the health workforce.

Nikora Wade delivering speech at MAPAS graduation 2022, with proud mum behind him.

A dream of curing his nan of cancer as a seven-year-old was the cataylst for top nursing student Nikora Wade to want to train in medicine.

Nikora (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Tūhoe) won the special award for outstanding achievement in the Bachelor of Nursing degree at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences’ Māori and Pacific Admissions Scheme (MAPAS) graduation ceremony on 12 December.

Nikora, who began his studies in 2018, graduated in one of the first cohorts to have studied across the lockdown period of the Covid pandemic.

He says the current workforce needs to take action on equitable healthcare.

“It’s important to understand what that is. A common mistake is to believe that resources should be shared equally, but not everyone's needs are the same.”

He uses the metaphor of “handing a bicycle to a person in a wheelchair”.

“A more equitable approach is to provide a universal bicycle that helps the wheelchair user to not only use the bicycle, but cycle at the same level as other cyclists.”

“The bicycle problem is essentially what’s happening to Māori who are experiencing poorer health outcomes. We are receiving healthcare that is not led by Māori, and therefore not covering healthcare issues that are most important to our whānau.”

A total of 4.6 percent of doctors in Aotearoa New Zealand are Māori, a statistic that Nikora says doesn’t reflect the change needed for Māori communities.

He says MAPAS and Whakapiki Ake (a recruitment programme that actively engages with rangatahi Māori at secondary schools to promote health as a career) work together to encourage more Māori into the health profession so Māori ideas and customs can be introduced.

Me whakamutua te whakatāmitanga – it’s time for us to decolonise these colonised spaces.

Nikora Wade Bachelor of Nursing graduate, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

He describes his studies as “a long five years” but well worth it to help make the change he’d like to see.

Nikora Wade and his mother at MAPAS graduation 2022. Wade won MAPAS Special Award for outstanding achievement.

“My kuia (grandmother) was my inspiration to see it all the way to the end. I lost her to cancer when I was seven and she was still young. Much was lost through her death; mātauranga, pakiwaitara and most importantly, time.”

That early dream to cure his nana matured when he saw his Pākehā mates with their grandparents who would regularly reach ages between 90 and 100.

“Honestly, I was jealous. I envied how much time they got to spend with their kuia and koroua and I wanted the same not only for me, but for my people.”

By Year 11, he was certain he’d become a doctor and focused all his energy into it.

“I ended up being named Dux at Rotorua Boys’ High School and for the first time in my life, I felt being a doctor was a real possibility; my confidence couldn’t have been any higher.”

However, he says he feels grateful not to have made it into medical school in the end.

“I was missing a fundamental value which makes Māori so powerful, and that was humility."

So he undertook a nursing degree instead and he says the fundamentals of nursing are similar to those he was taught growing up on a marae.

“We are taught manaakitanga, whakawhanaungatanga, and puku mahi from a very young age. So when I went into nursing, I saw that a lot of the values they uphold are parallel to those of Māori.”

He believes nurses are the leaders of the future, despite also wanting to become a doctor one day.

“My studies have not only made me a better health professional and eventually I hope, a better doctor, but have also made me a better person as a whole. My tūpuna provide me with my spiritual support as they continue to guide me in the right direction.”

He says something he has learnt through his nursing degree is to trust the process.

“That means surrendering my goals and aspirations to my tūpuna and trusting that they’ll take care of them.”

The evening was a heart-felt ceremony with cultural dances, waiata,and haka.

Many of the cohort described the friendships that kept them grounded throughout their studies, alongside the support of their families and advisers; particularly including that of the late Susanadaisy Jensen, who passed away last year.

The graduation event saw 66 students from the Bachelor of Health Sciences, Nursing, Optometry, Pharmacy, Medicine and Surgery presented with MAPAS completion certificates for their degrees.

MAPAS aims to increase the number of Māori and Pacific health professionals and supports them to bring inspiration and mana to the workforce through their own cultural lens. It is celebrating its 50th year of supporting Māori and Pacific students.

The beloved Susanadaisy Jensen (Sana) who advised many of the graduates of 2022 and sadly passed away last year.

Media contact

Te Rina Triponel | Kaitohutohu Pāpāho Māori