HomeNewsUCOL and Te Whatu Ora pave the way for aspiring healthcare professionals

UCOL and Te Whatu Ora pave the way for aspiring healthcare professionals

By UCOL on Friday, 02 February 2024

Health Programmes

UCOL Te Pūkenga and Te Whatu Ora Te Pae Hauora o Ruahine o Tararua MidCentral have come together to launch consecutive health programmes aimed at inspiring high school ākonga (learners) to pursue careers in healthcare.

Nicola Goss, Health and Diabetes Lecturer at UCOL, says that the STAR and Gateway programmes are an exciting chance for Year 13 ākonga to delve into the healthcare industry.

"These courses are fantastic opportunities for Year 13 ākonga who know they want to make a real difference in people's lives. It offers them a short taster to complement their studies while earning NCEA credits. It also shows them what can be expected if they go on to work in medical imaging, radiation therapy, nursing, health science, medicine, physiotherapy, dentistry, pharmacy, anaesthetics, occupational therapy, dietetics, social work, speech language therapy, medical lab science, or any of the many other exciting and rewarding fields in health."

Te Whatu Ora MidCentral's Associate Director of Allied Health | Scientific and Technical, Mandy Smith, says the informal partnership came about after seeing increasing demand from ākonga.

"Our ākonga often wanted to enter both programmes to experience the clinical and tertiary environments. However, this meant they would need to be away from school two days a week. Last year, we trialled an exchange – where the UCOL ākonga came to the hospital to spend a day in the clinical environment and the Gateway ākonga went to UCOL to meet with tutors of the courses they were interested in and look at the new facilities."

The exchange received much positive feedback and inspired the idea to blend the two courses, offering a broader experience, says Smith.

Launching in early 2024, the STAR and Gateway programmes will now offer flexibility for ākonga to enrol in consecutive courses. Te Whatu Ora will oversee the practical Gateway course in the first two terms, complemented by Goss' theoretical STAR course at UCOL in the third term.

"During the Gateway course, ākonga attend clinical placements in their area of interest - within medical, nursing and allied professions, and the support services. The placements are mostly observational and include helping with basic tasks and interacting with our patients.

"In STAR, Nicola teaches them more in-depth theory about health, anatomy and physiology. This means they can take what they've seen in the operating theatre or renal unit, make those connections and develop a greater understanding of how things work."

Ākonga also become first aid qualified during their time at UCOL, giving them the skills to respond in an emergency and provide basic life support.

For ākonga who don't have a whole year available for study, these programmes are the perfect solution, says Goss.

"If ākonga need a bit more balance with the rest of their studies, these short courses are a great way to get that experience, without having to sacrifice too much of their time. Of course, doing both our courses gives a great foundation, but if ākonga only have time in their class timetable to do one or the other, they have that flexibility."

"The programme not only provides students with a solid understanding of the health sector, which helps them in their career decision-making process, but it also serves as a crucial talent pipeline for our organisation," adds Smith. "Many ākonga who participate in these courses go on to pursue tertiary education and eventually enter the health workforce.

"We maintain ongoing connections with our ākonga and keep in touch with them after their course finishes. We encourage them to come back and work with us once they're fully qualified - it's a great way to build relationships with our future workforce."

Ākonga interested in kick starting their healthcare career are encouraged to enrol.

"It's a great opportunity to step into tertiary study and get that head start, without adding to your student loan.

"If you know someone in Year 13 who is interested in a healthcare career and wants to learn about what their career could look like, tell them to have a chat with their school careers advisor about the STAR and Gateway health programmes."

Enrolments for the STAR and Gateway programmes are open year-round.