Te Paatu o Te Ao Hurihuri – pandemic-related virtual adaptation of an established marae-based workshop for rural doctors: a qualitative study



Katharina Blattner, Marara Rogers-Koroheke, and Lynne Clay


Introduction. Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in Aotearoa New Zealand, an established remote community marae-based workshop (a component of a postgraduate rural medical programme) was converted into a virtual platform.

Aim. The aim of this study was to explore student and teacher experiences of this virtual adaptation with focus on cultural aspects.

Methods. A qualitative exploratory study was undertaken that involved document review and qualitative interviews. Students and teachers were invited to participate. Semi-structured interviews were conducted. Thematic analysis was undertaken using a framework-guided rapid analysis method. The two participant groups’ data were analysed concurrently but separately.

Results. Students found the virtual workshop valuable in furthering their knowledge of Māori culture, cross-cultural communication skills and health inequities in rural clinical practice. Through the innovative efforts of their teachers, they felt some sense of connection with the remote locality and its people. Teachers were able to impart knowledge, connect and keep everyone culturally safe through their commitment and adaptability. However, moving to a virtual platform meant compromise to the cultural experience for students and loss of sharing the learning and experience with their place and their people.

Discussion. In the event of a further pandemic or other emergency situation, where strong established relationships exist, replacing an in-person remote marae-based workshop with a virtual workshop, while limited, is achievable and has value. When urban tertiary institutions partner with remote Māori communities to deliver virtual teaching, caution is needed in ensuring sustained transparency in priorities and expectations to avoid further exacerbations of power imbalance and resulting loss of value.