PTO Nurses Win Southern Nursing Excellence Awards 2023

Pictured left to right: Dr Vanisha Mishra-Vakaoti (Director – Research and Training – PTO), Rochelle Barton, Tevita Vungamoeahi, Jane Wilson (Chief Nursing & Midwifery Officer Te Whatu Ora Southern) and Claire Wiechern.

International Nurses’ Day (IND) is celebrated around the world on May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. The theme for this year’s IND is "Our Nurses. Our Future". This is a global campaign to define what is needed to address the global health challenges and to improve global health for all.

Te Whatu Ora Southern held the Southern Nursing Excellence Awards to coincide with IND. The Awards ceremony was held on 11 May in Invercargill and 12 May in Dunedin and were open to all nurses working within the Southern district area across all settings and providers.

Pacific Trust Otago (PTO) employes three nurses: Rochelle Barton (Well Child Tamariki Ora Nurse), Tevita Vungamoeahi (Clinical Nurse Manager) and Claire Wiechern (Well Child Tamariki Ora Nurse). All three nurses were nominated for the awards under various categories.

We are delighted to share that all our nurses won awards in the categories they were nominated in. Faumuina Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga, Chair of the Pacific Trust Otago Board shared in the momentous occasion, “How exciting for our nurses to be recognized by Te Whatu Ora Southern! This is well deserved considering the ‘hard yards’ they put in for our people, especially during the pandemic. Congratulations to PTO nurses, and the excellent work you do for Pacific peoples in Otago.

Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Trust Otago, Fa’animo Elisara To’o congratulated the nurses identifying that, “this recognition for our most important asset, our people, is very much appreciated, and an excellent way to acknowledge our Nurses for their outstanding work. We are happy to accept this on behalf of our Pasifika Communities whose lives have been impacted from having the services our Nurses have been providing through their work at PTO.”


You can read more about the categories of excellence that our nurses received their awards in and more about the work that they do below:

Rochelle Barton: Well Child Tamariki Ora Nurse

Clinical Excellence in Nursing Award - Rochelle Barton

This award recognized nurses who provide exceptional nursing care and role model clinical excellence in their practice. They are inclusive and ‘live the values’ of their organization, standing out as exemplars for the nursing profession.

“The Well Child Tamariki Ora contract is the first, and longest standing contract that the Pacific Trust Otago has held. For over 10 years Rochelle has been at the forefront of this service. Rochelle has worked to reduce barriers to accessing health services in the Pasifika community. She is trusted by her clients and peers and is in high demand not only by Pasifika families, but by families from different ethnic groups in Dunedin. As such the Pacific Trust Otago Well Child Tamariki Ora service now includes clients from various ethnic groups. Rochelle has a real passion for her work, and her dedication to improving the health and wellbeing of her families sets her apart. Rochelle takes pride in her role and ensures she delivers quality and efficient services to her clients in a culturally appropriate way, while maintaining all the integrity that encompasses her profession.

Claire Wiechern: Well Child Tamariki Ora Nurse

Nursing Education Award: Claire Wiechern

This award recognizes nurses who take a lead in educating and supporting nurses or future nurses in their development. They have made a significant contribution to expanding nursing’s foundational knowledge, addressing challenges in nursing education or influencing nursing practice.

“Claire is a non-Pacific nurse working for Pacific Trust Otago, a Pasifika Provider in Dunedin. Claire works passionately to improve Pasifika babies’ and families’ health and wellbeing through the delivery of the Well Child Tamariki Ora service. Claire achieves impact directly through her work with families, but also through her role as the nursing supervisor for nursing students on placement with PTO. She shares her expertise from her own clinical skillset, coupled with her work experience with nursing students. Students under her guidance not only learn and develop nursing skills in the Well Child Tamariki Ora service, but also develop and further their cultural competence while working in a culturally safe space. The decision of PTO to have Claire, a non-Pasifika person lead the supervision of our Māori, Pasifika, and non-Pasifika nursing students in developing nursing skills and cultural competence speaks to Claire’s skills and ability to effectively navigate this space.”

Tevita Vungamoeahi: Clinical Nurse Manager

Pacific Nursing Award: Tevita Vungamoeahi

This award acknowledges and recognizes significant contributions to Pacific health and Pacific nursing. They demonstrate cultural competency in any setting, engagement with Pacific communities and others to influence positive Pacific health outcomes.

“Tevita works tirelessly to reduce barriers to accessing health services for Pasifika people. His efforts to do so are not only focused at the individual and community levels but also at mainstream health professionals. By encouraging mainstream health professionals to work alongside him during community clinics and outreach programs, he is supporting greater cultural competence amongst health professionals. In addition, he is demonstrating to Pasifika communities that the gap between these communities and mainstream health care can be bridged successfully. In what is perceived to be a predominately female profession, especially by Pasifika people, Tevita stands out as an exemplary role model. He is the only male nurse at Pacific Trust Otago, and one of only two male employees in a team of 13 women. Tevita effortlessly navigates the wide spectrum of Pasifika cultures while maintaining professionalism and remaining grounded in the core values of his profession.”