Meatworks injury led worker to train as physiotherapist

By Tamati Tiananga

Workplace injuries that required stitches to his arm ignited one man's ambitions.

Two separate workplace incidents as a butcher knife handler rehab led Jesse Brown to change his occupation to study physiotherapy.

Brown, in his final year of tertiary study, wants to work with Māori who suffer from physical strain on the body to better understand the importance of keeping healthy and fit.

“I had a couple of stab injuries that require surgery and after that I did rehab," he said. "Healthcare isn’t cheap and we need that assistance where we can.”

Brown threw in his well-paid but exhausting job to learn more about restoring health through physical examination.

Māori view

The programme delivers patient education, physical intervention, rehabilitation, and disease prevention from a Māori view. This week students went off campus to learn in a marae environment.

A Māori perspective is what attracted sports fanatic Tui Turner to the programme. The Waikato rep touch player, who also enters CrossFit competitions as a hobby, has an interest in working with elderly people.

From cutting meat to helping people through physio

“In particular at the Waikato DHB [while on placement] I worked with one of the elderly wards and we dealt with mainly stroke patients, many of whom were Māori," Tui Turner says. "It really opened  my eyes.”  

More Māori physiotherapists

The four-year Wintec and Te Pūkenga TA Waikato Institute of Technology programme offers a head-start for Māori. Māori make up a total 4% of physiotherapists. This programme is designed to increase that with 50% of the intake yearly of Māori heritage. 

Lecturer Rory Christopherson says it’s a scenario "mā te tuakana ka tōtika te teina, mā te teina ka tōtika te tuakana."

"We’ve got the expertise but what about the rest of life and the world?”

Many qualified physiotherapists go on to work with international teams like the All Blacks or the Silver Ferns. But Turner and Brown have a passion to work on the ground with Māori who are in serious need of restoring movement and function.