Published Friday 18 Feb 2022

History has been made with Hutt Valley and Capital and Coast DHBs celebrating the first Pacific nurse practitioner in the Wellington region!

Despite the challenges experienced across our region related to COVID-19, we have many milestones and developments to celebrate.

Catherine Soana Latailakepa Tu’akalau, of both Samoan and Tongan descent, has achieved what no other Pacific nurse in Wellington has done and progressed from a registered nurse position to a qualified nurse practitioner.

Mātanga tapuhi nurse practitioners combine advanced nursing knowledge and skills with diagnostic reasoning to manage patient centred care—their advanced education and training sees them taking a key role as a lead healthcare provider in partnership with health consumers and their whānau.

Getting to where she is now has been quite the journey for Catherine, but she says it has all been worth it, and is now hoping her latest achievement will inspire other Pacific nurses to progress advanced education and careers in the health sector.

“It’s a huge milestone for both my family and the Pacific community as well. I just hope becoming a nurse practitioner will encourage our Pasifika nurses to become a nurse practitioner and that they can move up to more clinical roles. I know that there are Pasifika nurses who have at least ten years of experience under their belt, yet they are still registered nurses. I feel like many are already doing nurse practitioner work but just don’t have the qualification. I may be the first here in the Wellington region, but I’m hoping there’ll be many more to come.”

Not only is Catherine one of only eight pacific nurse practitioners in Aotearoa, she is also the first Pasifika nurse in Wellington to specialise in child health, which she says was always her plan.

“Having been here (Hutt Hospital Children’s Ward) for over five years now has been such a huge learning experience. I have dealt with children with long-term chronic conditions in which I have been able to create a rapport with the family. I have seen the ups and downs but what I think is more rewarding is that we see them at the beginning when they are quite ill, but we also see them at the end with a majority of them all well and better.”

Many have praised Catherine’s efforts and recognised her significant achievement as the first Pacific nurse practitioner in Wellington. 

2DHB Director of Pacific Peoples Health Dr Junior Ulu said:

“I am very proud of Catherine’s achievement. She is one of 333 nurses who identify as Pacific across the 2DHB. Career progression within the health sector is what we would like to see more of, and Catherine has done extremely well. She represents not only herself and her family, but all Pacific people in general and we look forward to following Catherine’s future career path.”

HVDHB Paediatric Head of Department Dr Karla Fernandes said:

“It was a great pleasure to have known and worked with Catherine first in her role as a Children’s Ward Nurse at HVDHB and then as a trainee Nurse Practitioner(NP) during which time I had the privilege of being her clinical supervisor. Catherine’s determination, hard work and passion for caring for Paediatric patients in our community have served her well. She is the first Paediatric NP that we have trained in this DHB, the first Pasifika NP in the Wellington region and the first Pasifika NP in child health in Wellington. She has been, and will continue to be, a shining role model and inspiration to her colleagues. I am so very proud of her and know that she will continue to succeed in the future.”

2DHB Principal Advisor of Pacific Peoples Health Directorate Sipaia Kupa said:

“The Pacific Directorate is extremely proud of Catherine’s achievement as the first Pacific Nurse Practitioner in Wellington. Catherine’s achievement will hopefully help to inspire other Pacific nurses to follow suit and achieve better health outcomes for the Pacific people”.

From the two Specialty Clinical nurses at the Pacific Health Unit HVDHB Otila Tefono and Rose Nimarota:

“We are so proud of Catherine. It has been a privilege to be part of her journey especially as she is the first Pacific Nurse Practitioner in the Wellington region and the first NP specialising in Child Health (Wellington). She is an inspiration to her family, the community she serves and Pacific nurses to achieve their goals.”