To go back a little in time, not as far back as the breaking off of New Zealand from Gondwana millions of years ago as in a previous post, but to when Rebecca started her job at Tauranga Hospital. Wow, that was the strangest orientation she’s ever had! Her orientation started with a Maori Welcoming Ceremony. She and the other new workers were told how to behave (the kawa or protocol). Maori tribal elders were sitting in the front of the room along with the chaplain and the hospital CEO. Rebecca and the other women filed into the room in a slow ceremonial walk standing next to their chairs until they were told to sit. The men filed in next. They sat in the front of the room across from the tribal elders. Men sit in the front as symbolic protectors and to protect the women from aggressions. I thought it was safe here in New Zealand; she needs protection?
The ceremony lasted 25 minutes all done in the Maori language. They called on ancestors to be with all who were present, as well as the spirits of living relatives as they begin this journey. Finally they welcomed the new workers who were now “cleared” to walk the hospital campus as fully welcomed staff.
Not so fast. . . it wasn’t over. Then Rebecca had to stand and file down a line to do the Maori greeting custom called the hongi (breath of life). Yep, that’s the old forehead/nose touch greeting. She had never touched noses with a CEO before, let alone Maori tribal elders. This was the strangest orientation she had ever had.
A short while later and after the ceremony was over, Rebecca overheard a head nurse addressing some other nurses in the staff room. “Have you all signed up for your vacations. You know you need your rest,” the head nurse continued. Rebecca’s jaw dropped. No one ever—I mean ever as in the last twenty years—has asked any nurse in the United States a question like this. Vacation time was something you had to hustle for, to fight for, to demand. In her first year here she gets a full four weeks of vacation. And she says there are lots of breaks compared to the US. “I’m going to get a cuppa” is the universal phrase meaning you’re going on break.
Fellow workers also bring in bags of avocados and oranges from their gardens—help yourself—and also small home-made cakes.
There are no lockers. The nurses throw their purses in a pile in the break room. I guess no one every steals anything. The nursing is about the same she says except they use different acronyms and just to be difficult they’ve renamed all the medications she’s used for years. They aren’t as generous with pain meds as back in the States. When you come in with your broken leg here, the nurse might just say, “I’m going to give you some paracetamol for the pain.” Sounds like some heavy-duty stuff with all those syllables: pa-ra-ce-ta-mol. You might think you’d be getting the good stuff like Morphine or Demerol. But no, as you may or may not know, paracetamol is acetaminophen, better known as Tylenol.
One night Rebecca went out for drinks with a few of her co-workers. All the other nurses put coats and coverings on over their nursing uniforms and advised Rebecca to do the same. The New Zealand Council of Nursing apparently mandates that you can’t go into a bar or liquor store while wearing your nursing uniform. They don’t mind if you drink but, hey, they don’t want the nursing uniform to be sullied by your misadventures.