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Chilean nurse's inspiring journey to registration and citizenship

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Six times Chilean-born Maria Godoy sat the English language assessment test to obtain Nursing Council of New Zealand registration to nurse in Rotorua; five times she failed.

So when she finally passed in 2003 and got a score of 6.5, imagine her horror when she found out the bar had risen to 7.

It was then the Spanish-speaking trauma nurse enlisted the help of Rotorua Member of Parliament Steve Chadwick, now Mayor of Rotorua.

The two reunited today at a celebratory morning tea for Maria, her husband Cesar Alarcon and daughter Consuelo, 18, in the mayor’s office.

Mrs Chadwick had been unable to attend the family’s New Zealand citizenship ceremony last month due to a family bereavement.

"Her determination to become a nurse here in Rotorua was inspiring," said Mrs Chadwick.

"She didn’t give up and said to me ‘I am a nurse, I will practice as a nurse and I will get there’. People like Maria inspire others to keep trying."

Maria, now clinical nurse leader at Cantabria Home and Hospital in Rotorua, had worked as an orthopaedic and emergency department nurse in her home town of Valdivia, southern Chile.

In 1999, her husband came to New Zealand to work as a researcher on forestry projects.

He fell in love with the country and that same year brought his wife and then 1-year-old daughter Consuelo out for a campervan holiday in the South Island leaving behind their two older daughters with Maria’s mother in Chile.

Cesar continued coming back to New Zealand to work and in 2003 surprised his family with news he had bought tickets to move permanently here.

He found work almost immediately at Te Kura o te Koutu Maori immersion school teaching Spanish and Science.

But Maria was unable to gain that all-important nurse registration although she was able to work at Cantabria as a caregiver.

The Nursing Council of New Zealand was unable to relax its obligations under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003. All foreign nurses must have the ability to communicate effectively in English for the purpose of practicing nursing. To prove this, they must successfully complete an English Language Assessment test.

Mrs Chadwick’s moral support and that of friends like Gay Kingi who kept advocating on Maria’s behalf, proved inspiring and by 2004, Maria had passed the English test and could nurse.

"There are always people at our citizenship ceremonies that have back stories. Cesar, Maria and Consuelo have already made a significant contribution to Rotorua so when they became New Zealand citizens, I was very proud," said Mrs Chadwick.

Consuelo recently graduated from John Paul College in Rotorua - by sheer coincidence Mrs Chadwick gave the speech at the end of year prizegiving. Consuelo has already been accepted at Auckland University where she will study bio-medical science. Her goal is to become a surgeon and knowing the determination her mother showed to gain nursing registration, who would doubt that she would achieve that, said Mrs Chadwick.

Rotorua’s citizenship ceremony is held eight times a year with a maximum of 30 Rotorua residents becoming citizens.

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