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Olivia Knowles

After completing a Bachelor of Applied Science in nutrition at Ara, Olivia Knowles wasn’t quite done with study.

“I loved studying nutrition but I didn’t feel it was my sole passion,” she says. While working as a nanny and considering her next step, Olivia “stumbled by chance” across the combined Bachelor of Nursing and Master of Health Sciences, offered jointly by Ara Institute of Canterbury and the University of Canterbury. “And I’m so glad I did,” she says.

The two-year programme is the fastest way to become a Registered Nurse, and an effective way to facilitate career progression in the health sector. For Olivia it meant she could chart a course towards a health career that offered many opportunities. “It felt like the perfect fit for me. I knew I needed some direction and a challenge, and that's definitely what I got.”


Olivia is the first to acknowledge that the programme was intense and required a lot of hard work. “There were times when the level and volume of work felt overwhelming. But at the same time, it was so rewarding and the tutors were so encouraging and supportive.”

Olivia says she enjoyed the practical nature of her studies at Ara. “The time spent in the simulation suite acting out ‘real life’ scenarios with my peers was a highlight, as were the clinical placements. They really helped me develop my practice as a student nurse, to gain confidence and figure out my areas of interest. The experience I gained was invaluable. I picked up a wealth of information from the incredible nurses I worked alongside and I was able to put into practice everything I’d learned throughout the course.”

The day after she sat her final exam, Olivia gained her “dream graduate job”, working with paediatric outpatients at the Canterbury District Health Board. “Working with children and their whānau is my absolute passion and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about it.”

Despite the challenging nature of the combined degree/Masters programme, Olivia believes it was absolutely worth doing and encourages others to take the plunge. “Knowing you have an abundance of career opportunities in the future is so exciting. It’s opened so many doors for me.”