On September 10 2018, Suli will start his new role as a community mobile nurse with the Trust.
As a 2018 Pegasus Workplace Development Scholarship recipient, Suli will divide his time between Tangata Atumotu Trust and Eastcare Health, where he will work as a practice nurse.
“One of my passions is working with Pasifika communities. Working for TAT will give me that opportunity to engage with a lot of our communities that are in need of nursing care. Coming from a public health and physical activity background allows me to offer some expertise in health promotion and physical education.”
“I can offer that total holistic package in communities,” he says.
Suli, known for his enthusiastic fitness instructing at Les Mills in Christchurch, will shadow community mobile nurses, Lisa Suapopo and Alo Collins, before heading out on his own and into the community.
“Nursing was always something my mum was keen to do but she hated the sight of blood,” says Suli.
“She suggested that I follow up on an advertisement in the newspaper for a Master of Health Sciences at the University of Canterbury combined with the Bachelor of Nursing degree at the Ara Institute of Canterbury. As soon as I did my first placement in aged care, I thought ‘this is me’.”
Suli completed a Master of Health Sciences in July, which allowed him to research the topic: “Becoming a Pasifika Registered Nurse: Reflections of their student nurse experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand.”
“It was great to be able to have that as a topic and to be able to identify how best to offer some recommendations around how we can better support Pacific nursing students.”
Earlier this year Suli also completed a summer internship with the University of Otago looking at ambulatory sensitive hospitalisation (ASH) rates.
“What I love about nursing is it allows me to care for people who are vulnerable, to make suggestions around how to make someone’s life - and their family’s lives - a little bit better and to also advocate for them.”
“I really respect that it’s not just the physical but it’s also the mental, the emotional and spiritual. It’s really about taking a holistic view and offering that to patients and their families.”
Suli’s own journey to health has been a tough one.
“In my early 20s, I was quite a big lad. It got to the point where it was out of control and I needed to do something for my own self.”
Suli, who was then a member of the Olympus gym, calculated he might have gone six times over three years.
“I remember thinking ‘this is ridiculous. I have paid for this treadmill in its entirety, and I am going to get my money’s worth’. That was the turning point for me.”
“I felt that I was happy in myself, but things started to get a little bit harder in terms of doing things. And I remember triple digits... with sizing and on the scales. I remember ripping my pants, and when I flew one time, I was close to needing an extension belt.”
Suli went on to teach at the gym, before he moved to Les Mills in 2002.
“It’s having my story as a motivator and knowing that if I can do it, then you can as well. There is no quick fix but it’s all about having those right supports in place.”
Suli is looking forward to being one of those supports for the community and playing his part to make health a priority for everyone.
“Health is wealth.”
“You’ve got to make sure you are in a good state.”
When he isn’t nursing or teaching one of his nine Les Mills classes, Suli is running Sunday School at his St Paul's Trinity Pacific Presbyterian Church. Every Monday, he tutors youth and mentors’ families at Linwood College on all things health related.