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Source: Whitireia

Shawnee Watson-Darbyshire, 28 years, always wanted to be a nurse, but when she left college in 2010 she felt like her dream was out of reach.

After withdrawing from study in 2011, nine years later Shawnee decided to give it another go and show her seven year old son that it was possible to achieve your dreams. She re-enrolled in the Diploma in Enrolled Nursing programme at Whitireia and is only weeks from graduating as an enrolled nurse.

“My turning point was my son telling me he wanted to work at the supermarket like Mum,” Shawnee says. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I want to encourage him to dream bigger and show him that he’s capable of anything.

“It was daunting going back to study but the support Whitireia provided has helped me get through it.”

The Diploma in Enrolled Nursing is an 18 month course that prepares students to become an enrolled nurse, through a combination of theory and practical, hands-on experience.

Juggling study and raising her son has been a challenge for Shawnee, but she credits support from her family, her employer and Whitireia tutors for making it possible.

Shawnee has noticed a positive change this time around with her studies, both with herself and with the course. “When I first enrolled I wasn’t prepared and couldn’t keep up,” she says. “Now I’m not afraid to ask for help. The tutors are amazing, they provide lots of resources and student support and help you learn the way you like to learn.

“I don’t learn from a book, it’s the lab classes, and hands on learning that works for me.”

“The Diploma in Enrolled Nursing caters for students like Shawnee, who haven’t necessarily had the best experience at school, but absolutely have the ability to apply the knowledge through hard work and study,” Denny McLeod, Enrolled Nursing tutor says.

“Whitireia is a polytech with a heart – we strive to support the students to be the best they can be, and with hard work they prove time and time again, they can have this career that will not only change their lives, but those of their patients.”

Shawnee has been able to translate her practical learning into real-life experience through placements at Huntleigh Rest Home, Kenepuru Hospital and currently Hutt Hospital.

“I have loved my experiences on placement, they have been difficult, but rewarding,” Shawnee says. “I want to work with elderly after being in the rest home. Hearing their life experiences is so interesting and I think we can learn a lot from them. They deserve to be looked after.”

Being on placement in the rest home during Level 3 lockdown was also a learning experience for Shawnee. Residents’ families were unable to visit their loved ones due to the restrictions and Shawnee would provide a comforting presence by taking the time to sit and talk with them.

Shawnee is currently interviewing for jobs in nursing and is excited about putting her skills into action and working in the career she loves. She has a preference for working with elderly after the rewarding experiences she had on placement in Huntleigh Rest Home.

“Sometimes I question whether I have enough knowledge, but then when I’m out there I know I’ve got it and I’m ready,” Shawnee says.

Further information can be found here:

Whitireia offers a wide range of nurse training from diploma to post-graduate level. More information on the Diploma in Enrolled Nursing course can be found at