The mother of two children by the age of 17, Uputaua Suniula is now a nurse helping to turn around the health of teenagers and children in Porirua.
Suniula was recently recognised with the Margaret Faulkner graduate award for her compassionate care that is making a difference in Porirua – a difference she describes as “empowering”.
“The positive impact I can make within the community has been mindblowing, especially working as the first point of contact for people in need,” she says.
Suniula has worked on the front line of healthcare at both Waitangirua and Porirua’s Community Health Service for Capital & Coast District Health Board and is currently a community health and rheumatic fever prevention nurse in Porirua.
“My focus is to work with Porirua’s young population to help develop prevention strategies that can stop acute presentations of preventable things like asthma and skin infections, reduce the strain on hospital services, as well as lower our overall healthcare costs.
“One of the problems we face is that teenagers and children don’t come in to see a doctor till they’re really sick,” she says.
“What could’ve been addressed in the clinic instead becomes complex, at which point they become an inpatient in the hospital.”
One campaign Suniula works closely on is the rheumatic fever prevention programme in Porirua, where finding and treating strep throat can prevent the risk of a lifetime of heart issues.
“It’s all about treating the patient early, before they develop a serious problem.”
Suniula is now working towards a postgraduate certificate of nursing, with the aim of gaining a master’s qualification specialising in primary health care.