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Ensuring general practice services are more accessible to minority groups


A Māori workforce development initiative is ensuring general practice services are more accessible to minority groups

A Pinnacle MHN Māori workforce development initiative, alongside Wintec, will be key to ensuring primary health care services are more accessible to minority groups.

2018 has seen an increase in Midland hauora Māori (Māori health workers), and Māori health providers, participating in and supporting the New Zealand certificate in health and wellbeing primary care practice assistance level 4 (Te mahi awhina tuatahi).

Ten Māori students are enrolled this year, and will graduate with the necessary skills to be employed in roles providing administrative and clinical support across a primary care practice, such as primary care practice assistants (PCPA) or medical centre assistants (MCA).

The programme will help ensure Māori community health workers have adequate knowledge and qualifications to help address health challenges within their own communities.

"The primary care workforce requires skills that provide a wider range of services in community settings, which includes services that are accessible, appropriate, and responsive in contributing to Māori health gain", says Rawiri Blundell, Pinnacle MHN Māori health manager. "I'm pleased to see the increase in programme numbers and that further development of the strategy will include integration of hauora Māori working in general practice."

We had a chat with students Teresa and Samira about why they enrolled in the programme and, now six months in, how they're finding the experience.

"The course was brought to my attention by my practice manager", says Teresa from West Coast Health Clinic. "I had just started in an MCA role without previous experience in medical centres, so it sounded perfect."

Teresa says she's finding the clinical side of the course (how the body works) particularly enjoyable and fascinating. "Especially being able to relate it back to my work and seeing how my learning benefits our patients. As an example, understanding how the digestive system works gives me more confidence when talking to patients about the importance of healthy eating. It also allows me to initiate a conversation with a patient who may feel more comfortable to talk to an MCA, and potentially disclose important information that can be passed onto the clinical team."

For some, the remote online learning aspect of the programme can be challenging.

"I have had to be disciplined with my study time (alongside working full-time and looking after my family), which has been a work in progress," notes Teresa.

To help counteract this, lecturers and additional support is readily available. Wintec ensures students have all lecturer contact details and a lecturer is always available to answer questions or offer support. Alongside this, video conferencing meetings are arranged to keep in close contact with students to address any challenges they might encounter in their regions.

"The lecturers have been super supportive" says Samira who supports the Pinnacle MHN Cay-C programme. "They have always been available to answer my questions, and have done an awesome job at staying in touch with us all via video conferencing and frequent texts, calls and emails. I also feel the course has been well spaced out in terms of deadlines."

This year the students have been fortunate to have a dedicated kaiawhina (support worker); working alongside the students and lecturers, strengthening support to students and playing a particularly valuable role when any issues arise.

To ensure at least weekly direct contact with lecturers, students keep an online journal. Only open to the individual student and lecturers, journal privacy is maintained and students have the opportunity to share and be supported with 'the good, the bad, and the ugly' parts of life that might impact on their study.

Workplace support is also essential to the student's success.

"The support I have received from people I work with has been invaluable, helping me see where I can use my learning with patients - and it hasn't always been how I thought", says Teresa. "On a daily basis I use what I have learnt to work closely with the clinical team and make their jobs a bit easier by doing routine checks, setup and clean-up of certain procedures. I also feel more confident around patients, hopefully making them feel more confident in the care and advice they are receiving. "

"It is a pleasure to see how the students use the learning in their workplace", says Rawiri. "They are and will continue to be great assets to their communities and their whānau."

Samira comments the programme has been an opportunity to step out of her comfort zone. "Coming away with a certificate in under a year is awesome, and receiving my grades has been really rewarding - seeing all of my hard work is paying off! I would love to use this qualification as my stepping-stone into a general practice."

"I would absolutely recommend this course to others if they are working somewhere they can use what they are learning. I am loving it and am very thankful I have the opportunity to participate in it," says Teresa.

For successful graduates who intend to pursue further study related to health and wellbeing, this programme may lead on to the New Zealand certificate in public health and health promotion level 5 enrolled nursing studies or bachelor's degrees in related subject health and wellbeing areas including nursing or allied health disciplines.

Pinnacle MHN acknowledge Wintec and its tutors for their significant student support and the Waikato DHB Māori training fund for financially supporting the students to complete the course.

Te mahi awhina tuatahi level 4 started in February 2018 with students due to graduate early in 2019. Next year's intake is envisioned to begin February 2019 and will be advertised once confirmed.

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