A community connection

Suli Tuitaupe, man standing

Suli Tuitaupe and his team can often be found at church, running health and wellness programmes for his community where they congregate.

“We need to know our communities in order to work with them, so it’s essential to go to them rather than them coming to us,” says Suli.

“It’s important to understand how our communities work and what their realities are, so having a clinical and a health promotion head, plus connections to the communities, all contributes to improved health outcomes.”

For two days per week, Suli works as a Practice Nurse at Eastcare Health in Aranui. The rest of the week he is Team Lead, Clinical and Health Promotion for Tangata Atumotu Trust, a local Pasifika healthcare provider.

Suli earned a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Physical Activity Promotion and Public Health and then completed a Master of Health Sciences with an endorsement in Nursing. In 2018 he was accepted into the Nursing Entry to Practice Programme (NETP), supported by Pegasus Health and Te Matau a Maui Provider Collective.

Suli credits Di Bos, Pegasus Workforce Development Manager and Elly Grant, Maui Collective Clinical Coordinator, as the brains behind what came next; the Toloa Initiative.

Toloa means ‘to fly’ in Samoan and the initiative allowed Suli to do just that, dividing his time between Eastcare Health and Tangata Atumotu Trust during his NETP year. In September 2019, he was offered his current permanent part-time roles at both organisations.

The Toloa Initiative was new for the medical centre, as well as the community organisation.

“Normally a NETP programme would either be at one setting or the other. I was very fortunate to be offered employment at the end of the one-year initiative and to work for both organisations was a bonus,” says Suli.

The Toloa Initiative is now available annually to a Pasifika newly graduated registered nurse. Suli has been able to support one nurse into employment and is currently precepting (helping to provide training to) another.

What really gets Suli excited about community health is the freedom to be creative.

“When you come out of nursing school, you’re usually pushed towards working in the hospital setting. What I’ve enjoyed about working for Tangata Atumotu is the initiatives that we have created, because you’re out of mainstream and can think outside of the box. If you really want to make a difference in improving health equity, you’ve got to look outside the square.

“We connect with our patients, their families and our communities to best support them in managing their health conditions, providing health checks or access to services and support. We work with a preventative and holistic lens, with a focus on illness prevention rather than illness cure, and the motto ‘health is wealth’. We also provide advocacy when there is a need for health or social services.

“It’s about being a trusted face in a trusted place – being able to connect people to their practitioner or health professional, whether it’s through translation or explaining medical terms, being able to offer options or by being an advocate.”

For Suli, further education is crucial to his long-term career aspirations, so he is planning to return to university to complete the Health Sciences Doctorate Programme in 2022.

“I want to be my best version – credibility is really important within our communities. You have to understand how your communities work in order to serve them, but also be a role model for your people. Education is power. Really knowing your stuff and having credibility behind you – that’s why further education is crucial.

“I look around and see the issues affecting our communities. So, if something isn’t working, what needs to happen to make a change for the better?”

Read the full June newsletter here