Nurse Margaret Morunga gained a position, after her studies, at Invercargill Prison through a professional development nursing programme.The step from study to full time practice for any professional can be daunting.

The change from graduating nurse or tertiary tutor to working in a prison environment can be even more so and it is this leap that two new additions to the Invercargill Prison Health team have taken.

Margaret Morunga is only the third nurse graduate to take part in the Nurse Entry to Practice (NETP) Programme in Invercargill Prison. The programme provides graduate registered nurses support and professional development to facilitate their transition from student to practicing nurse in their first year of practice.

Not long after her arrival, Margaret was joined by Cassie Carstensen, her former educator and the person who recommended her for the NETP programme, as the new Invercargill Prison Health Centre Manager.

Of Ngāphui descent, Margaret says she was drawn to Corrections by a passion for Māori health and health literacy for all men and following a 9-week placement in the prison in her final year.

“I hadn’t experienced Corrections nursing prior to this,” she says, “and I was unsure what to expect. I was attracted by an interest in improving Māori health statistics. It turned out that I love the mix of primary and acute care and the ability to see a difference for vulnerable people through the work of the health team.”

“I knew Margaret had a passion for working with Māori and that wherever she ended up she would be an asset,” says Cassie. And certainly, by all accounts, Margaret has flourished, taking on a leadership role in the roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations in the prison.

“My colleagues and I have been educating and vaccinating and following up the vaccination status of new prison arrivals,” says Margaret. “Vaccination is an essential health tool for us, not only to safeguard these men and their whānau - who are generally amongst the community’s most at risk and hard to reach groups - but also to help manage the very real health risk posed by a COVID-19 outbreak within a prison environment.”

Former Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) Nursing educator, Cassie Carstensen says she came to Ara Poutama Aotearoa ‘looking for a change’.

(L-R): Nurse Margaret Mohunga and Health Centre Manager Cassie Carstensen at Invercargill Prison.                                              “I felt I was starting to disconnect from ‘the real world of nursing’,” she says. “So, following a role assisting with the training of COVID-19 vaccinators, I decided that I needed to get back to clinical nursing. When I saw the Invercargill Prison Health Centre Manager job advertised, I thought it ticked all the boxes I was looking for; management and clinical nursing, meeting both people’s physical and mental health needs.”

Margaret now has a permanent contract at Corrections and is excited about the range of possibilities to work within Ara Poutama Aotearoa. “I am going to enrol in post graduate studies next year and have aspirations of becoming a nurse practitioner within Corrections,” she says.

If you want to know more contact Chief Nurses Ann-Marie Searchfield or Brenda Bruning.

About NETP 

Nurse Entry to Practice (NETP) provides graduate registered nurses support and professional development to facilitate their transition during their first year of practice. The programme includes clinical work, a 12-month placement, and postgraduate courses.