Fana Temese-To'omaga is the first Pasifika woman to graduate from the Wellington satellite of the Otago Polytechnic Bachelor of Midwifery. The programme is delivered by a blended model where students study online from their own home and attend weekly akonga sessions with local Kaiako in one of six satellites. They also engage in midwifery practice in their local satellite and attend compulsory week-long block courses in Kapiti or Dunedin.
Fana is a New Zealand-born Samoan from Wellington – married to Peter and mother to Ferila, Joshua, Sera, Shekinah and Hadassah. Fana grew up wanting to be a midwife but put it in the “too-hard” basket. Instead she worked as a librarian until she decided it was time for a change and re-trained as a Pacific Breast Feeding Educator/Advocate. As time went by, the midwife/lactation consultant who worked with Fana kept encouraging her to apply for the programme.
“I didn’t feel very confident at first as I hadn’t done anything academic for about 20 years and it was a big shock, but I was determined to keep going because I wanted my kids to know if I can do it, then they can do anything they want.”
Fana also felt the pressure of being the first Pasifika woman to study in the Wellington satellite via the new blended programme model.
“It was hard because I knew I stuck out like a sore thumb, and there was the expectation that I’d pave the way for others.”
For her month-long elective placement in August last year, Fana had the opportunity to go to Vanuatu and immerse herself in ‘island life’. The most valuable resource was the experience and skill of the local midwives, whom Fana found to be extremely intuitive, caring and open to new learning. ‘‘It was a two-way experience with lots of laughter.”
Fana is now a core midwife at the Wellington Regional Hospital and is part of the Midwifery First Year of Practice programme, which matches newly qualified midwives with professional mentors and is compulsory for all new graduates in New Zealand. “You are always learning in this profession - it doesn’t end because you have graduated, actually, it’s just the beginning.”