Full house of student leaders for 2021

February 1, 2021

After a chaotic year in 2020, the National Student Unit (NSU) once again has a full cohort of leaders.

“This year we are really looking to focus on getting into our roles and building up the unit,” returning chair Mikaela Hellier (Ngāti Hine), told Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. In 2020, “we were very limited in what we were able to do”.

Not only did COVID-19 bring huge uncertainty to nursing schools nationally, but the NSU vice-chair Trudi Kent was killed in a car accident in in July.

‘Amongst all the chaos, there were times I thought, I can’t do this anymore’.

Mikaela Hellier
Mikaela Hellier

“Amongst all the chaos, there were times I thought ‘I can’t do this anymore’,” Hellier said.

But with the support of former Te Rūnanga Tauira (TRT) chair Tracy Black – who acted in a tuakana or mentoring, role – her co-leaders who stepped up to support NSU, and NZNO staff, Hellier kept going.

“We were the people everyone turned to for answers.”

Delegation, sharing of the workload and keeping connected were vital elements.

“Communication is the biggest thing I learned to maintain. Talking every week [with co-leaders] about what we need to focus on was really important.”

NZNO acting associate professional services manager Kate Weston and nursing and professional services manager Mairi Lucas also provided a huge amount of support. “One day I hope to be equally as hard-working as those two incredible women.”

In her third year at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi in Whakatāne, Hellier is interested in paediatrics but also women’s health, since experiencing endometriosis, and maternal and child health. She has also found her place of calm working in high pressure environments such as intensive care or emergency nursing. “Organised chaos is where I want to be.”

Kimmel Manning
Kimmel Manning

Ko Takitimu te maunga
Ko Aparima te awa
Ko Takitimu te waka
Ko Ngāi Tahu te iwi
Ko Takutai o Te Tītī te marae
Ko Kimmel Manning tōku ingoa

Returning Te Rūnanga Tauira chair Kimmel Manning, Ngai Tahu, wants to see NZNO’s student arm return as a “major political voice for nursing students in Aotearoa” this year.

“COVID-19 caused a lot of chaos in our schools of nursing, and it is imperative that we build students’ capacity to participate in NZNO processes so we can have a seat at the table and speak to the issues affecting us.”

That included a long-term strategic focus, and efforts to ensure all nursing schools were represented on the NSU, as well as succession planning for future leadership. “This year will be about re-establishing NSU. There are a lot of new people [student representatives] and they will need a lot of guidance.”

‘I felt like there was a gap that needed to be filled. And we need more diversity in nursing, and everywhere these days’.

The short-term nature of the roles, meant it had been difficult to get traction on entrenched problems such as bullying. However the NSU leadership was determined to address this in 2021, he said.

A third year student at Southern Institute of Technology (SIT), Manning chose nursing after growing up witnessing many whānau member with health issues – “physical, mental, addictions” – unable to get help.

Jade Power
Jade Power

“I remember going to these appointments and it felt like people weren’t listening. I felt there was a gap that needed to be filled,” he said. “And we need more diversity in nursing, and everywhere these days.”

Raised between Invercargill and Brisbane, Manning’s whānau was “materially” poor but valued education highly. They supported him to be the first member of his family to not only study at degree-level but to complete high school. “Whenever I have been given an opportunity, I try and see what I can learn.”

For incoming NSU vice-chair Jade Power nursing “has always been my dream.

“Having spent time in hospital as a young child, “nurses have always been individuals I have looked up to”, she said. “Being a nurse is one of the most wonderful professions in the world.”

In her second year of nursing studies at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, Power joined NSU to support other students and nurses – and be a “friendly face” for those with concerns.

Lucinda Solomon
Lucinda Solomon

Ko wai au ko Moumoukai te maunga
Ko Takitimu te waka
ko Waikerepu te awa
ko Manutai te marae
Ko Ngāti Rakaipaaka te hapū
ko Ngāti Kahungunu te iwi
Ko Lucinda Solomon tōku ingoa

TRT vice-chair Lucinda Solomon is a third-year student at Whitireia’s bachelor of nursing Māori. Previously a beauty therapist, she was keen to get into dermatology and cosmetic medicine. But it also opened her eyes to other possibilties. “I was given the chance to be me, to be Māori. I sit in a class of people who understand me and I don’t have to hide it from anyone. They have given me strength to push myself further and not to focus on working with the skin but also working with our people.”

She hoped to advocate for other students in her new role – which she says is “the best move” she’s made. “Last year we got really lost and this year, I want to really push things for students.”