A young Pasifika male nurse has been recognised as New Zealand's Young Nurse of the year.
John Fa’ukafa was presented with his award at the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Toputanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki Aotearoa (NZNO) Annual General Meeting and Conference dinner last night. (20 September)
Fa’ukafa, of Tongan whakapapa, is a 29-year-old registered nurse at the Adult Sexual Health Service and Pohutukawa Clinic - Te Toka Tumai in Auckland.
His nominators said John always views the service from the patient perspective, finding ways to reduce the barriers to being seen.
He has been described as a person who combines a professional approach with his authentic self, bringing out the best in other nursing staff by being warm, supportive, and honest.
"John consistently offers help to every other member of the wider multidisciplinary team. His generosity of spirit improves the working lives of everyone around him; doctors, receptionists/schedulers, nurses, cleaners, psychologists, and baristas."
They also admire Fa’ukafa for his courage and resilience in breaking through the stigma of being an openly gay Tongan male nurse and using his experience to support patients wholeheartedly, regardless of age, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender identity.
On top of working with patients living with HIV, John was a regular volunteer at Auckland Hospital during the initial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and promptly attended a training course when the Mpox (Monkeypox) virus arrived in Aotearoa, joining a group of nurses who provide information and immunisations to gay and bisexual men at risk.
He is also the first Pasifika male nurse in New Zealand to provide after-hours forensic nursing care as part of the Pohutukawa Clinic, Adult Sexual Assault Service.
Fa’ukafa said he was lost for words and humbled when he learned he had received the award.
"It was a definite surprise that I was being nominated and even more surprising that I won the award."
He said that while he was proud of his resilience and ability to adapt and carry on, he does not allow his background, gender or sexuality to define who he is.
"For me and my nursing career, I think my perseverance and kind of my drive to do well and be well. I’ve always kind of exceeded that. As much as it’s a part of me it's not always what drives me."
He also said that he’s grateful to work alongside such a good team of people.
Fa’ukafa was chosen from several high-quality nominations and diverse nursing fields. The two runners-up were Elizabeth Hope Zizik and Tiahn Beuth-Pukepuke.