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Image: L to R: Sue Husdon (Research Associate); Robuna Mall (Co-researcher); Jill Phillips (Co-researcher); Samantha Heath; Associate Professor Dianne Roy; Nasyitah Aiz (Research Assistant); Georgia Cray (Lecturer)
The Centre for Research in Education for Healthcare Professionals was underpinned by a $320,000 MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship., awarded to the new director, Associate Professor Samantha Heath, for her research project "Fit for the future: Reimagining nurse preparation for practice in New Zealand's changing demography."
Speaking at the opening, Samantha acknowledged the support of the many people who had made the new research centre possible, especially the team at Unitec's Tūāpapa Rangahau Research and Enterprise.
"The ability to do massive things feels easier because of the people that walk beside us. I am passionate about research as I think it is a meaningful way to contribute to solving the problems that we see in health services. As educators, I believe we have an absolute responsibility to make sure that all New Zealanders are served by the very best healthcare practitioners.
The origins of the research centre was informed by Samantha's many years of clinical practice, she said, when her own education had enabled her to deliver care for patients in critical need.
"Education was an absolute pillar for managing those situations, and learning from the very best practitioners pushed me to expand my capability.
"It's about believing in the power of education, and the time for that is now when we see the strain that the health service is under, we see resources are short, but we also see that we can do things more efficiently and more effectively, and we should. "
The centre's initial focus will be researching the best educational preparation of health care professionals concerning New Zealand's changing demographic and meeting the health needs of older adults.
She said that education also needs to keep pace with the community's requirements as our population ages substantially in the coming years.
"If we deliver new graduates who are well-educated and who understand the community and who understand the people that they serve better, then it's good for us all.”
Marcus Williams, Research Director Tūāpapa Rangahau Research and Enterprise said the centre epitomises the unique value proposition of applied research in vocational education and Te Pūkenga.
“The combined resources across the country represents nursing and healthcare educators who are literally growing the next generation of carers within an integrated national network spanning form Invercargill to Kaitaia. The ease of access to this diverse yet widespread learning and teaching community is unprecedented, incorporating the potential to hear about and understand specific regional needs and opportunities. The leadership of an individual with the capability and drive of Associate Professor Samantha Heath has been the final catalyst, what comes next will be vital to Aotearoa exciting to witness.”
Samantha also thanked MBIE and the Te Apārangi Royal Society for their forward-thinking in awarding her the grant and the team of researchers she works with from across New Zealand's polytechnic sector.
"It feels like the culmination of a fantastic period in my career, and now I can take the commitment and support we have to move this important research forward."