Vision for whānau health inspires graduate

Merophy Brown wants her masters research to help all whānau to have positive experiences in Whangārei Hospital.

Master of Nursing graduate Merophy Brown with, L-R, Murray Clayton (Dad), son Maru, 12, husband Maru, son Riley, 15, and mum Sal Clayton.
Newly minted Master of Nursing graduate Merophy Brown with, L-R, Murray Clayton (Dad), son Maru, 12, husband Maru, son Riley, 15, and mum Sal Clayton.

Merophy Brown has just graduated from Te Tai Tokerau with a Master of Nursing – first class honours - and a vision for health services where whānau  Māori feel safe. 

Brown’s masters thesis was born out of her mahi as associate clinical nurse manager  at Whangārei Hospital’s neonatal unit. 

“I get feedback from whānau that can sometimes be quite hard to hear and I thought, ‘Hey, how can I take this information and do something positive with it?’ As a nursing Manager, I am in a position where I can influence change,”  Brown says. 

Her hope is to improve the way things are done in the neonatal unit and more widely, so Māori whānau have positive experiences and keep returning for healthcare in the future. 

For her dissertation, Brown interviewed eight whānau, with time for whakawhanaungatanga,  talking about their experience in the hospital, and ending with the all-important shared kai.

Using thematic analysis, developed by Science’s Professor Virginia Braun, Brown identified themes in the families’ feedback.  

When they arrived, with a premature or sick newborn, the families talked  about a need for ‘whakawhanaungatanga’, making them feel welcome through connections around family and values. 

Next was whakawhitiwhiti kōrero, “communicate with us”, which relates to how hospital staff talk to families. 

Then, whakanuia te whānau, celebrating and respecting whānau.  

“People come into the hospital with knowledge and whānau felt, at times, their knowledge wasn’t seen to be important.” 

The next was about ngā whainga a whānau, which is about wants and needs of the whānau. 

“Often when people have to be here, they are outside of what’s normal for them. If they are from Kaitaia, it’s asking ‘have they got somewhere to stay’ and ‘what are they eating, while their pēpi is here?’” 

The last one was kotahitanga mea manaakitanga, “together is better”, which is collaboration.  

“That’s about  how we as health professionals show we care and how we create space for families to feel respected.” 

Ultimately it will impact how likely people are to return to health services in future.

It’s known we remember the negative experiences far more than positive ones.

“It’s about changing that narrative so that, despite being in the unit, it’s a positive experience.  I want all whānau to have positive experiences,” Brown says.

The next step is to look at policy changes that will make those changes.

Brown has submitted a paper for publication and now, especially, after enjoying the ceremony on 19 March at Te Tai Tokerau, her thoughts are turning to a place she thought they never would – a PhD. 

“It would be a long haul. Two years seemed like a long time, but I enjoyed the journey and what I learnt from it, personally and professionally.” 

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FMHS media adviser Jodi Yeats
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