His placement at Waimarino (a mental health unit at Waitākere Hospital) was his favourite. “It was the home-based treatment team and I enjoyed it so much because of the people in the team,” says Sam. “There’s a lot of things in the community you can do - there’s home intervention, you’ve got the crisis team and you’ve got the older adults as well that are in the community.”

Before turning to nursing, Sam was a manager in a private school. “The place was going to close in a few years and I thought ‘why don’t I do nursing’. But before that, I sprained my ankle and went to an A&E clinic with my wife. I watched the nurses working and said to my wife ‘I can do that’ and she said ‘that’s exactly what I was thinking’.”

Bachelor of Nursing students practice their skills at the Simulation Centre at Waitākere Hostpital before moving on to clinical placements. It’s a chance to practice using the equipment and learn when and how to intervene. For Sam, it wasn’t until he started his placements that he was really able to connect with patients.

During his degree he worked at Waiatarau and Waimarino Mental Health Services, North Shore Hospital, Auckland Hospital and Mt Eden Prison. “That was a very interesting one,” says Sam. “I got attacked on my second day of placement by a guy who was going through drug withdrawal. They didn’t think I would come back, but I did. It’s actually somewhere I’d like to work in the future, once I’ve got a bit more experience.”

It was while Sam was at Waiatarau that he had a breakthrough moment. “One of the nurses told me, you’ve got to have a lot of patience with people, you’ve got to care for them and you’ve got to have kindness. It’s definitely one of the things I’ve taken on board, because otherwise you can get tired of seeing the same people come in  – often because of the abuse they put themselves through. You can think ‘Why should I do anything for them? Why should I care?’ But the moment you lose these values, it’s time to move on.”

Sam also had to learn not to take things personally. “Sometimes you talk with a client in the morning and they’re happy, but within a few hours they don’t want to see you and they start shouting. It’s very hard.”

As the programme went on, Sam found the Nursing staff to be very supportive. “I withdrew from one of the papers and that’s when I got to know some of the staff up close. The teaching’s really up there and when you meet students from other places you realise you’re up there as well. You can understand things. I would recommend anyone to go to Unitec. I thought it was a good experience.”

After enjoying his placement at Mt Eden Prison, and getting so much out of his time at Waiatarau and Waimarino, Sam is now working for the WDHB (Waitemata District Health Board) at the Mason Clinic. In the future he plans to do more work in clinical forensics, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.