Waikato celebrates first nursing graduates

First cohort of registered nurses stepping out into the workforce.

18 Apr 2024

The University of Waikato is celebrating the graduation of its first cohort of nursing students, marking a significant milestone in healthcare education and workforce development. 

Group of University of Waikato Nursing graduates

On Wednesday, over 60 students were conferred their pre-registration Nursing qualifications at The Pā, at the University’s Hamilton campus. These graduates, who are now all working as registered nurses, include a mixture of traditional Bachelor of Nursing students and the University’s innovative new graduate-entry Master of Nursing Practice degree.  

The graduating nurses were also presented with a University of Waikato nursing pin as a public symbol of excellence, which will be worn on nurses’ uniforms, identifying their place of study. 

This is the first Nursing School in 20 years after the last entirely new programme was launched two decades ago in Auckland.  

Bachelor of Nursing graduate, and student speaker at the ceremony, Ben Scanlon, says the University’s nursing degree captures a wider audience of people who may not have considered nursing previously.   

Ben Scanlon

“It’s great that some barriers to entering the course have been broken down and that people are getting an opportunity to gain a nursing qualification. It’s been special to be part of this first graduating group and to have navigated the journey to make history together,” says Ben, who is now working at Hamilton’s Tui Medical in general practice and urgent care.  

It’s been a journey; the people, the students and the staff that have fought for us all the way. The support I received throughout my studies at Waikato was second to none.

Ben Scanlon 

For Ben, nursing is more than a profession; it’s a deep sense of compassion and desire to address healthcare disparities. The loss of his father, a former doctor, his mother’s nursing background, and his dedication to service programmes through high school shaped his dedication to serving others.  

“The programme is taught in a very holistic way, with an emphasis on equity, mental health and addictions, Māori and Pacific health and extensive clinical placement hours.” 

L-R Head of Nursing, Cheryl Atherfold, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, Michelle Cameron, Dr Ange Stewart, Professor in Gerontology, Matthew Parsons, Pukenga Matua in Nursing, Donna Foxall, Poutumatua Pasifika Tausisoifua Associate Professor and Associate Professor Anthony O'Brien.

Cheryl Atherfold, Director of Nursing, is proud of the first graduating cohort, saying they have participated in the new initiative by providing input into the way the programme has developed during the impact of Covid-19. 

“Local health providers have employed more graduates than before as the health system responds to staffing needs,” Cheryl says.  

“The integration of bicultural approaches, mental and physical health, lifespan and hospital and community care into each paper within the qualification ensures a practice that is responsive and agile.” 

Dean of Health Professor Jo Lane

Dean of Health, Professor Jo Lane, says the new nursing programmes are a tangible expression of the University’s motto: Ko Te Tangata – For the People.    

Our nursing programmes were initiated and co-developed in partnership with local health stakeholders as a direct response to the desperate shortage of nurses in our region. I am incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to achieve together.

Professor Jo Lane

There has been very strong interest in the new Nursing programmes, demonstrating the demand for university health professional programmes in the region. 

Sue Hayward, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer at Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora | Waikato, says the collaboration between the University and healthcare stakeholders is shaping the nursing curriculum by combining what might have happened in the old ways of training to the best of what’s happened with new ways of education.  

Sue Hayward Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer

This programme provides a contemporary approach to the training and education of undergraduate students, so they are exposed to the reality of working in a nursing field  


“While it’s important to acknowledge the knowledge and skills nurses need, at the end of the day, nursing remains an incredibly practicable profession.” 

The programmes emphasis on practical training and multidisciplinary collaboration ensures that graduates are well placed to address the complexities of modern healthcare delivery, she says. 

“We’ve really turned the way nursing students are being educated to match the needs of the population. The courage the University showed to establish a new school of nursing during a global pandemic, is just phenomenal.”  

The success of Nursing at Waikato has also served as a launch pad for other innovative health programmes, including the country’s first graduate-entry Pharmacy programme, which will begin next year, and the new graduate-entry medical school, which is expected to have an initial cohort in 2027.  

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