NorthTec's Te Puna o Te Mātauranga Marae hosted a celebration last week, as 31 nursing graduates formally completed their studies, the day after sitting their final Nursing Council state examinations to qualify as registered nurses after three years (or more) of hard work and sacrifice.

Each student spoke, acknowledging the huge support they had received from their families, NorthTec tutors and classmates, all of whom had helped them achieve their success.

Dianna Peni, who was about to join the staff at Whangārei's North Haven Hospice, was among them.

"I want to thank the NorthTec tutors, preceptors, and everyone else behind the scenes who made it possible for me to complete my degree, especially my whānau and my children, who stood beside me throughout my whole journey," she said.

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"My three children were my inspiration behind completing my degree."

The majority of the graduates had been offered new graduate registered nurse positions with the Northland District Health Board, and were about to join the Tai Tokerau health care workforce.

Principal nursing lecturer Jeanette Briscoe said the nursing team at NorthTec was immensely proud of the students' achievements.

"It is always an emotional day for us, seeing the students with their whānau when they talk about the struggles they have trying to juggle family, finances, jobs and full- time study. Our students are amazing," she said.

"The Bachelor of Nursing degree is so much more than an ordinary degree, and our students are more to us than just students. We get to know them really well, and we care about them as individuals, and we then become their colleagues as professional registered nurses."

Nursing Pathway manager Dr Bev MacKay said she was proud because she knew the positive impact the graduates would have as registered nurses on their whānau, their communities, and for health outcomes in Northland. And the whakawātea was an important part of farewelling the students and handing them back to their families.

"We welcomed them to NorthTec with a pōwhiri, and promised to look after them, and now we complete the process with a whakawātea," she said.

The nurses will be eligible to graduate formally at the NorthTec graduation ceremony in March.

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