Atah (Jo) Smith’s life philosophy is simple – “Nothing’s going to come to you in life. You’ve just got to get out there and get at it”.
For 31-year-old Jo, who finished her Bachelor of Nursing from EIT Tairāwhiti last year, hard work and determination has characterised her journey to becoming a nurse. She now has a job as a theatre nurse at Hauora Tairāwhiti, thus fulfilling a lifelong passion to follow her mother into healthcare.
Jo was born in New Zealand to a German mother and British father. When she was four years old, the family left for England, where she grew up and was home schooled.
At the age of twenty, Jo decided to return to New Zealand to enrol in the Bachelor of Nursing at EIT Tairāwhiti. But because her school results were not the best, she says she first chose to complete a year-long New Zealand Certificate in Health Science in 2012
“Things changed and after that I decided to do midwifery at Wintec for two years. However, I had a daughter, and it got a bit too much for me, so I moved back to Gisborne because that’s where I had support.”
“I decided to switch to nursing and started the degree at EIT Tairāwhiti in 2018.”
It was not as easy as it sounds as she was a single mother to Tessa, studying and working as well.
“It’s definitely been challenging because I don’t have family over here, so my daughter’s dad’s family – her nana on that side – has been very supportive of me throughout my degree.”
In order to pay the bills, Jo started her own cleaning business.
“I started with one or two clients and then by the end, I probably could have stopped studying and just continued my business, but obviously that’s not really my dream and passion. I’ve always wanted to be in healthcare like my Mum.”
“It’s definitely a challenging degree and there are ups and downs, but I feel that EIT was a very supportive environment.”
“There is a sense of family there and you can ask them anything. They cheered us on the entire time and were stoked for us when we all passed.”
Jo says she enjoyed the programme, which included placements for on-the-job training. She got experience working as a theatre nurse and as a nurse on a medical ward. While COVID-19 did disrupt her studying, she is happy she kept on going.
“My advice to anyone doing the degree is that they must take every opportunity to learn from everyone around them, no matter what their title is. Just take everything as a learning opportunity.”
Jo is looking forward to graduating, but in the meantime is enjoying her job as a theatre nurse.
“Working in the preoperative environment is a highly complex and technical role and can be very demanding at times but it is rewarding. I definitely enjoy being in a multidisciplinary team because we get to work with the anaesthetists, the surgeons and other healthcare team members. And I’m proud to be a part of a team caring for the whānau and community here in Tairāwhiti, providing better health and wellbeing for every individual.”
She may have her degree, but this does not mean that Jo has stopped studying, as she is currently enrolled at the University of Auckland online in the Nursing Entry to Practice Programme (NETP) postgraduate diploma.
That will not be the end for Jo, as she would like to get her Master’s in Nursing from EIT at some stage. For now, she wants to get her skills “down pat”, but also has ambitions of moving up the nursing ranks as her career progresses.
Amanda Haywayrd, a Nursing Lecturer on Tairāwhiti Campus, says: “Jo’s success in her nursing training is due to her determination and drive. This saw Jo through many challenging times and her perseverance during her training was very admirable. She is a great example of a student who juggles shift work, essays and classes with the pressures of motherhood and work.”
“Jo adapted a realistic approach and understood the varying challenges that many people in our community face. She demonstrated a practical and empathetic approach throughout her three years of training. It is wonderful to see her pursue her nursing career in theatre.”