Tony Gray, Chief Executive, Ara Institute of Canterbury

The Health Research and Education Facility (HREF) will benefit the next generation of undergraduate nursing, midwifery and medical imaging students and their future patients.

The Health Research and Education Facility (HREF) is a flagship building in the Health Precinct. It will house almost 2000 Ara nursing, midwifery and medical imaging students, and University of Canterbury health staff and academics. It will provide an outstanding opportunity for our students to be co-located on a daily basis with health professionals.

They will learn in facilities that replicate actual healthcare environments, and get further training to develop their careers in this New Zealand-first, innovative new Te Papa Hauora Health Precinct.

We are fortunate to be sharing this developmental journey in healthcare education with the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) and University of Canterbury. Ara has enjoyed a close collaboration with the CDHB for many years. Both organisations share a passion for excellence in healthcare training and this has led to HREF, in what we hope will be an exemplar of collaborative and co-located training and professional development. My colleagues at Ara began working on this project with our partners back in 2012, but our involvement has intensified in the last few years as we work on the design of the building’s interior and prepare to move 1800 of our students and staff from June 2018. There has been and continues to be a huge amount of work happening to align all partners’ systems and processes and to prepare for a smooth relocation.

The quality of the healthcare programmes at Ara is well recognised throughout New Zealand, and our graduate employment statistics are some of the best in the country. However, we want to ensure we continue to improve the experience and development of our students. We believe HREF offers a unique opportunity for our students from the region, across New Zealand and internationally, to experience the everyday immersion of training alongside our partners’ health professionals and researchers, and enjoy the benefits of inter-professional learning, to become the best healthcare professionals they can be.

Medical imaging students at Ara were the first in the world to use virtual reality training and we expect to see this trend gather pace across other disciplines at HREF, with co-location expected to lead to creative solutions to shared challenges. Students will have access to CDHB’s digital platforms as well as superior simulation environments including real world operating theatre, trauma room, post-operation recovery room, home and ward environments and larger, more modern learning spaces.

HREF will allow our programmes and our people to grow and develop, and will deliver better outcomes for students, for patients, for health professionals and for the sustainable future of the health sector in Canterbury and New Zealand.