Kaiawhina Nurse – What’s in a name? Can it influence behaviour? Carmel Appleby.

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The ENT theatre had been using a role based model for delegating nurses responsibilities for several years. A few years ago an anaesthetist and the CNC after trying names such as: patient focused nurse, lead nurse, circulating nurse etc decided to try a Maori name to reflect not only the value this nurse has in promoting efficiency but also overseeing the patient journey through theatre. After consultation with a respected Maori staff member, Kaiawhina was the title recommended. Kaiawhina means helper, assistant, contributor, advocate.
The unpredictable and busy nature of theatre today can often cause nurses to lose insight of the holistic needs of our patients and become task orientated. The Kaiawhina role provides patients with a singular nurse who is solely dedicated to overseeing all aspects of their care to ensure the patients’ needs are met accordingly. The Kaiawhina will be their nurse until handover to the PACU nurse. The presentation will explain how it is being adopted within the theatre suite. Most care delivered to Maori patients is by non Maori nurses, and the Kaiawhina role is now being used to develop cultural competence, by supporting nurses to use the Maori health model of care, Te Whare Tapa Wha.

Three key learnings:

Believe in the benefits

Overcoming the barriers

Whakapakari – growing the good

Kaiawhina causes nurses to pause and think of what and how they deliver their care. Because the name is different, it helps them to be mindful and intentional. Nurses are reporting they are making meaningful connections with their patients.


After a career spanning 24 years in administration Carmel retrained and graduated as an RN 8 years ago.
She currently works as a senior nurse in the Plastic Surgery Theatre at Waikato Hospital. Carmel is passionate about patient centred care and looks forward to sharing their efforts to integrate Te Whare Tapa Wha Health Model of Care in the department.