2nd-year student, Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy)
Her studies have shown her that health practitioners can do so much more than treat injuries, says Alexandra Reeves who is currently studying a Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy).
“My first years of studying physiotherapy have deepened my desire to make an impact on healthcare in New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to be someone who made a real impact on the world, but for years, I didn’t know how. Learning about the inequities in the healthcare system – the socio-political restrictions, institutional racism and assumptions made about patients – not only shocked me, but inspired me to enable every New Zealander to receive the healthcare they need.”
Being introduced to te ao Māori through her courses has been eye-opening.
“Māori culture is woven into AUT’s health degree, which has given me a new appreciation for this special aspect of our country. I had always, wrongly, thought Māori deserved the same amount of care and support as anyone else; that their culture shouldn’t affect their treatment. However, I now see the importance of equity, rather than equality. Māori are forced to assimilate to a different culture, set of values and language if they want to participate in New Zealand society. Unsurprisingly, this is why Māori often have such poor health outcomes.
“I’ve been particularly engaged in the learning about the ethical responsibilities of health practitioners to be partners to patients. We’re taught to see the patient as a whole and work with them, not over them, which opened my eyes to how often this isn’t the case. I realised just how much I care about fixing this.”
The right choice
She discovered her passion for physiotherapy when she was in high school, says Alexandra whose studies at AUT are supported by an AUT School Leaver Academic Excellence Scholarship.
“When I chose to take NCEA PE, I quickly found out that PE was a natural strength for me, and fell in love with anatomy, physiology and biomechanics, plus discussions of the wider implications of exercise and sport. Physio is essentially the marriage of these concepts. Being someone who loves to learn, grow and problem solve, it seemed like the perfect fit.”
Now in her second year at AUT, she has found AUT to be the right university to pursue her passion for physiotherapy and healthcare.
“Physiotherapy at AUT has such a holistic focus – not just on the knowledge it takes to be a physiotherapist, but also the skills needed to do so effectively, within the context of Aotearoa New Zealand.
“AUT is about collaboration, shown most notably through the support from staff and the familiarity of having the same lab group for every class. The physiotherapy teaching team are so approachable and knowledgeable, and they want to get you through. In addition, the courses are constantly being evaluated and changed to reflect the current needs of New Zealanders, which prepares you so effectively for entering the industry when you graduate.”
Obstacles and support
Moving from Christchurch to Auckland to attend university was a big move for Alexandra and it certainly had its challenges.
“I moved here from Christchurch in 2019, solely to attend AUT. This was the first time I had lived out of home, and knew no one in or near Auckland, or even the North Island. As many students do, I had to build a new life, juggle the COVID-19 pandemic, and navigate university while being far away from any of my support networks, or anything familiar. On top of this, I struggled with my mental health, and perpetual low mood, debilitating anxiety and constant depression made life overwhelming.”
She is grateful for the support she could access when times got tough.
“I never had to worry about my place at AUT, or how I would meet my university obligations. From the very first day I went to AUT, before I was even a student, I knew of the many support strategies AUT has in place. Though I haven’t had to use them, always knowing I had options, including the genuine support from my course staff and student advocates, took so much stress off.
“The design of the programmes, calls and emails from staff and stories I heard from fellow students, and the strength of the student voice at AUT gave me confidence that they want me to succeed. This meant I had so much more capacity to work through my personal obstacles. It’s because of this that I have managed to stay in Auckland, and overcome so much of what I struggled with in my first year.”