- Director of Pacific People’s Health
Tusiga Sealiimalietoa is a Samoan woman, who has built her career through sheer tenacity and aspirations for her family, community and church over the years.
“My cultural values, belief, family, community and Christian faith is very important to me as these have shaped who I am as a person,” Tusiga says.
Today, she is an experienced health professional with many qualifications.
Tusiga’s success has been due to her belief and faith in God and hard work, her focus on helping others, and her commitment to upskilling through tertiary education. This includes the completion of her New Zealand Diploma in Psychology (Level 5) from Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga.
From factory worker to experienced health professional helping the Wairarapa community
In the 1980s, Tusiga started working early and long hours in the factory of a Wellington-based cash register company NCR Tawa, after leaving school with no qualifications at the age of 16 to help support her husband and young family to pay their bills.
In May 1991, Tusiga and her family moved to Wairarapa, as her husband was ordained as Church Minister for the Assembly of God Church of Samoa in Masterton. Tusiga continued to work for a clothing manufacturer - packing shirts.
Her next job was at Alcatel, making cable wires and harnesses for cars, with early starts again from 6am in the mornings, while supporting her husband with the church ministry and raising their children.
“I wanted to embark on studies as I thought to myself ‘gosh I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life, I need to upskill myself’ as I had no formal education,” Tusiga says.
With the support of her husband, Tusiga was able to start her study journey from 1995.
Firstly, she took on a social community family support role for a counselling organisation, before securing a job at Masterton Hospital in 1999.
There she had the role of Mental Health Support Worker in the inpatient unit, before delving into higher education, to study the certificate in mental health support work.
Whilst in this role, she also completed a three-year Bachelor of Social Work degree, which enabled her to become a Registered Social Worker in the community, inpatient, and a Registered Oncology Social Worker across the three districts, a role she still holds today.
A medical event in November 2019 saw Tusiga hospitalised in ICU for three weeks on life support with a 50/50 chance of survival.
“Doctors in ICU were amazed at my survival due to the nature of my medical event,” Tusiga says.
Tusiga was asked by a specialist what she thought about what happened to her, as she wasn’t supposed to live.
“It was a divine intervention into a human situation,” Tusiga replied to the doctor.
“That is why God is important to me, as I have been a second chance to continue the work I do to provide effective and quality care to those I serve,” Tusiga says.
Returning to study
While recovering at home for four months away from her job as a hospital social worker, Tusiga started to take stock of her goals and wondered if she still had the cognitive ability to study.
In 2020, Tusiga decided to enrol in the New Zealand Diploma in Psychology (Level 5) at Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga.
She found her diploma studies to be beneficial in her job as a Registered Social Worker, particularly in her dealings with different personalities, attitudes, and perspectives – this was to gain a better understanding of how individuals think, feel and why they behave the way they do.
Psychology study benefits career
While she was studying towards her psychology diploma, Tusiga applied for the position of Director of Pacific People’s Health and was successful.
She juggles this position with her two other roles, as a Registered Social Worker for the Community/Inpatient and Oncology along with her church and family commitments - as a minister’s wife, Sunday School Teacher, mother, grandmother, supervisor and a full-time worker.
One of the motivating factors for Tusiga taking up study in the first place was her children, who are now all adults with established careers of their own. Two have taken on the study pathway.
“It’s good to let them know that you can achieve through studying, your life experiences and the belief and faith that God knows what is in store and he is in control,” Tusiga says.
Tusiga’s faith an important part of her life
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart,” Psalms 37 v 4, The Bible.
“The above verse resonates with who I am today and what I have accomplished with the guidance and support of God through the learnings given by my many lecturers throughout my study journey, my family and friends,” Tusiga says.
“The many late nights and deadlines for assignments and assessments are all worth it when you make a difference in a person’s life. That is a reward, the achievement is being able to make a difference.”
Tusiga has worked for the Masterton Hospital since 1999, until now.
During the 24 years’ service she has worked for the same organisation, with various training and education for supporting the clients/patients/individuals and their families for the benefit of their well-being and giving them the empowerment to make decisions for themselves.
“I see myself like a Russian doll, referring to my 24 years of working for the one organisation in different roles. The great support given to me by my employer to achieve and accomplish my study goals has been amazing and within one organisation, many layers are embedded,” Tusiga says.
“As I started with no qualifications, with the help of my tutors and lecturers, that we were gifted from God to support us students to achieve our goals in life.”