Real nurses star in campaign to draw more Māori, Pasifika & men into nursing  

August 5, 2022

NZNO nurses from military to burns and plastic surgery feature in a new NZNO-Ministry of Health (MoH) recruitment drive to encourage more people into nursing — particularly Māori, Pasifika and men.

The Real Nurses campaign was among a raft of measures announced by Health Minister Andrew Little on Monday to reduce pressures on the health workforce.


Worst-affected areas such as mental health and aged care nursing were priorities, with a mental health nursing drive already underway and aged care launching shortly, MoH principal communications advisor Tom Stephenson told Kaitiaki.


NZNO associate manager professional and nursing services Kate Weston said the campaign had been a “long time coming” after COVID and funding delays. It was conceived after the NZNO-DHB 2018 safe-staffing accord, when NZNO, MoH and DHB nurse leaders agreed on a partnership approach to nurse recruitment.

“The whole thing really was to challenge stereotypes of nursing, so not the hearts and flowers stuff but actually real nurses and that’s the underpinning of the campaign — real nurses, real heart, real strength,” Weston said. NZNO staff and members were “adamant” real nurses featured rather than actors, she said. “We said: ‘Don’t give us fake nurses, we want real nurses, we want them to be authentic’.”

On the set for the Real Nurses campaign
Diverse nurses

NZNO campaigns advisor Katy Watabe said the campaign sought a diverse range of nurses across different specialties who could be “relatable” to school leavers, “so young people might be able to see themselves represented in people working in the different areas. We wanted to show people working in different specialties and show the breadth of the work that you’re able to do as a nurse”.


It was also crucial the campaign represented the true skills, energy and “grit” of nurses, Watabe said.

Despite huge pressures, most of those approached — after some hesitation — put their hands up and were “really enthusiastic” to promote nursing to school leavers, she said.

Watabe worked hard to find Māori, Pasifika and male nurses willing to step up “so that young people in those communities might see themselves in the nursing workforce. . . so it looked like something that was acceptable and inviting to a wide range of people”.

Only about seven per cent of nurses identify as Māori, against a population of 17 per cent. Pasifika are seven per cent of the population but just three per cent of nurses — while just five per cent of nurses are male.

Watabe said she also had to “dig” quite hard for some of the less common specialties , such as military nurses.

“The whole thing really was to challenge stereotypes of nursing, so not the hearts and flowers stuff but actually real nurses and that’s the underpinning of the campaign — real nurses, real heart, real strength.”

NZNO initially paid for a small web-based campaign costing about $80,000, with MoH eventually stepping in with funding to take it wider. Total campaign costs were “confidential”, Stephenson.

“Now it is going to have the exposure we’ve always wanted, because to fund it on our own as NZNO was not sustainable. So it was great to have the ministry take it to the next level as a national campaign across sectors,” Weston said.

Work was also underway on an international nurse recruitment drive, with guidance from the World Health Organization on an ethical approach amid a global pandemic and nursing shortage, Weston said.

Chief nurse Lorraine Hetaraka said the Real Nurses campaign “showcases nursing as a diverse, meaningful and rewarding career”. provided information about different nursing specialties, what training providers were available in their area or — for those looking to return to nursing — a link to the Kiwi Health Jobs site to see current listings, she said.

It would target the 18-24-year-old age group, with ads on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitch, as well through as a partnership with the TV show Shortland Street from August 15, with a “small storyline integration”.