Inspired by whānau, two sisters support each other to graduate with a degree in nursing from Whitireia

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Sisters Jerykah and Javaanah Toimata-Holtham, who are 13 months apart, have just qualified with a Bachelor of Nursing from Whitireia and WelTec | Te Pūkenga and both are now working full time as nurses in the Wellington region.    

“I left Wellington Girls College before I finished highschool,” says Javaanah, “and Jerykah ended up completing her schooling in Australia. Neither of us really knew exactly what the future held for us, and we had started doing casual work just to earn some money.” 

“But we have strong family ties to healthcare through our Pacific heritage, and our whānau encouraged us to think about this pathway as a possible way forward,” says Jerykah. 

“Our Niue grandfather spent much of his career as a psychiatric nurse in Porirua, and following in his footsteps, Mum qualified as a nurse at Whitireia, and is still dedicated after twenty years. They are an inspiration for us and we decided to start our own journey into healthcare,” says Javaanah. 

“The academic pathways at Whitireia gave us focus, and most importantly, gave us the confidence to start the bachelor degree in nursing,” says Jerykah. “During the three-year degree we lived with our grandparents for family support, and to be close to the Whitireia campus.” 

Study was not always totally straightforward, as some of their programme had to be completed during COVID lockdowns, and in her final year of study Javaanah had a baby. 

But Jerykah and Javaanah were supported by the Pacific Team at Whitireia who helped them secure Aniva funding to assist with their study, and travel to clinical placements. With this help, with encouragement from their whānau - and each other - both sisters remained committed to completing, and graduated this year. 

Javannah now works as a community nurse with Ora Toa in Porirua. “I love this work as it keeps me close to my community. Because I have both a Pacific and Māori background, I connect with many of the patients who are grateful to be with someone familiar as they discuss their health worries and needs. I feel this is such a valuable role, and it also allows me to be a Mum to my young baby too, as the hours are workable.”

Jerykah is aiming to be a PAR (patient at risk) nurse, and is well on the way to that, currently working as a PACU (post anesthetic care unit) nurse at Wellington Hospital. “The work is intense, I love it and am learning so much!” 

“Both sisters beam with pride as they talk about the work that they do and are an inspiration to other students that nursing is an achievable career, and that it offers a very diverse range of work options,” says Carmel Haggerty, Head of School, Health & Social Services, Whitireia and WelTec | Te Pūkenga. “We are delighted that Jerykah and Javaanah have accomplished all that they have, and we look forward to seeing them continue to flourish in their work and lives.” 

“We celebrate every Pacific graduate. Jerykah and Javaanah take into their nursing practice the aspirations of their I-Kiribati and Niue communities, setting new goals and career frontiers for Pacific youth,” says Jean Mitaera, Chief Advisor, Centre for Pacific Health and Social Practice.

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