A chance opportunity five years ago to attend a careers event with a friend has now landed a Rotorua girl her dream job as a nurse.
Rotorua's Katelyn London, 21, will start her working career at Rotorua Hospital's medical ward under the nurse-entry-to-practice programme next month after coming across the profession on an off-chance five years ago.
"My friend wanted to go to a careers lecture about nursing and she didn't want to go alone, so I went along," she said.
"While I was there I really enjoyed the talk and thought I could see myself doing that," she said.
Today she celebrated completing her degree at Toi Ohomai's Mokoia campus.
Katelyn and 14 other nursing classmates will formally graduate with a bachelor of nursing on April 13 at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre.
A student at John Paul College when she attended the careers event, London made sure she studied what was required to follow a registered nurse pathway by adding maths and science subjects to her studies.
"Once I'd decided to become a nurse I made sure I gained NCEA Level 3 and University Entrance and completed the subjects to prepare myself for my degree."
Nursing runs in Katelyn's whānau; her great-grandmother was a nurse overseas during World War II and two of her aunties are nurses. Her grandmother was a healthcare assistant in the maternity ward and nowadays is a clinical equipment co-ordinator for the Lakes District Health Board.
"My grandma started training to be a nurse, but then she had children and didn't end up completing it, so she was extremely happy that I finished, as it was something she never got to finish."
Throughout her studies, Katelyn has been supported by Kia Ora Hauora, the national Māori health workforce development programme.
"I registered with Kia Ora Hauora in my final year at high school, so I've been lucky to have their support throughout my studies.
"I wasn't aware about scholarships or know the process of applying for them. They helped me identify which ones I could apply for, helped me identify my whakapapa and supported me in my journey as a student nurse. I'm really grateful because without them I wouldn't have got any scholarships this year. "
This year Katelyn received the Hauora Māori Health Scholarship, Māori Education Trust Bachelor of Nursing Scholarship and the Florence Nightingale Memorial Award.
Through her relationship with Kia ora Hauora, Katelyn also started a 10-week studentship programme in November, aimed at giving students experience in a healthcare setting with a specific focus on achieving health equity for Māori.
Katelyn says while her nursing studies and placements have been rewarding, 2020 has been "hard work", especially dealing with Covid-19.
"Throughout my degree, I've had many highs and lows. My grandfather passed away in the first year of my degree and a student nursing sister passed away this year. And although these both affected me a lot, they also helped drive me to achieve my goal of becoming a registered nurse," she said.
"Covid put a lot more pressure on us nursing students this year and some were not coping, some left for personal reasons, others left to help support their families, it was tough."
As to the immediate future, Katelyn wants to make the most of her time in the medical ward.
"It's always been the goal to end up being a nurse practitioner, but as a registered nurse there are endless opportunities, so I am going to continue studying and work my way up.
"I know I definitely want to be in a position to give back to my Māori community. When I was younger I spent a lot of time out in Murupara with my family where my grandparents lived.
"I'd like to practise out there, maybe in a clinic - I've always thought about going back. Unfortunately, my grandparents aren't here anymore, but it's still home to me."