About Monina Hernandez – NZ Filipina nurse leader and public health advocate


monina gesmundo

I am an experienced educator, clinical nurse specialist for infection prevention and control and nurse-midwife. My nursing career spans more than 24 years in two countries. I am passionate about dignity for all, social justice and democracy through collective action. I am an advocate of equitable health care, patient safety, safe staffing, living wage, jobs for new grads, effective workforce planning and ethical nurse recruitment.

My involvement with unions transcend two countries. I was actively involved in the ALL-UP Workers’ Union – Alliance of Health Workers, a public-sector union at the largest Philippine hospital-university system since 1990s. I have also been actively participating in the NZNO Infection Prevention and Control College activities since 2013 and in the NZNO – Greater Auckland Region (GAR). I am a member of the NZNO Research Section and had a research article published in the Kai Tiaki Nursing Research Journal. I also received a Regional Service Award from GAR in 2016.

My background

 I came from a closely-knit family in the Philippines and was schooled in an exclusive school for girls and a special science school designed to meet the needs of scholars gifted in science and mathematics – Manila Science High School. I was a consistent honour student since my elementary days and this helped me get accepted in the highly competitive B.S. Nursing programme of the University of the Philippines (UP), the premier university in the Philippines.

I have been a student leader since the late 1980s, having been elected to the nursing student councilof UP Manila for three consecutive years and having founded several social-service organisations for nursing students. We have organised several free-clinics to economically deprived urban and rural communities; responded to disaster situations brought about by earthquakes (1990) typhoons, volcanic eruption(1991) and fire; advocated for equitable healthcare for all Filipinos and free education for the youth; fought against the privatisation of public hospitals;demanded a just wage for our workers;educated communities on the rationale use of medications and many more. The year before I graduated, I was recognised as the Most Outstanding Student of the University of the Philippines Manila in 1991. The following year, I was top eight of the graduating class and was awarded the Most Outstanding Student of the University of the Philippines Manila College of Nursing.

After getting my license as a nurse, I decided to be involved in development work among community-based health programmes in the Philippines. The harsh realities of inequality and human rights violations that I saw as a student left a lasting impression and shaped my values. I was involved in advocacy work for equitable healthcare, just wage for workers, genuine land reform and human rights. I spent weeks in deprived urban and rural communities to provide health service and to educate families on basic health care and health promotion. The rest of my time was spent on writing articles and letters to the editors of major newspapers to expose the realities of the urban and rural poor.

In 1999, I was recognised for my advocacy work and was invited to join the faculty of the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila College of Nursing. I was anactive member of the ALL-UP Workers’ Union – Alliance of Health Workers, a public-sector union based in the largest university-hospital system in the Philippines. In 2004, I was awarded the UP Manila Chancellor’s Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Demonstration of Cooperation and Work Ethics. In the same year, I was given the Most Outstanding Teacher Award by avillage council in Laguna, a province outside Metro Manila.

In 2005, I put my hand up for midwifery-training among the faculty members and became the top eight out of the more than 2000 who took the Philippine Midwifery Licensure Examination. I enrolled in Master of Arts in Nursing, Major in Maternal and Child Health programme and researched on cord care for newborns. I was active in the Philippine Nurses Association and was one of the associate editors of its official journal for two years. I also took on extra-part time work as a faculty member in other colleges of Nursing between 2003 to 2006 and was invited by schools to provide review classes to nursing graduates. I travelled almost every weekend all over the Philippines to conduct review classes in various universities while squeezing community service in between.

monina gesmundo

Medical Mission in Cavite, 2005


Free Clinic in San Juan, 2006

In 2006, I became the Director of the Philippine nurse licensure examination reviewfor a private nursing educational programme. During this time, I authored a book on community health nursing and contributed in the development of review materials for the local nursing board examination. I was also invited to talk on various topics in nursing schools all over the country and overseas to present my research on cord care.


Center for Excellence in Nursing Education (CENE) with nurses who recently passed the nurse licensure examination

Coming to New Zealand

In 2009, I received an offer of sponsorship with a guaranteed nursing job from Counties Manukau District Health Board. I arrived in New Zealand on October 2009 and have lived here for seven years. I am now a New Zealand citizen and I remain to be active in the nursing profession through research/scientific presentations, publication submissions and community involvement in health, migrant and environmental concerns. I graduated with honours at the University of Auckland with a Master of Nursing degree and am working on my PhD.

I worked for two-years as a high-risk postnatal ward nurse with a few months of rotation at the neonatal ICU of Middlemore Hospital. In 2012, I became a clinical nurse specialist for infection prevention and control at Counties Manukau Health and remained in that position until the third quarter of 2016. I went back to bedside nursing because I wanted to experience hands-on nursing care and immerse myself in actual clinical practice in New Zealand. I am currently a lecturer at the School of Nursing of Massey University. I believe that teaching and molding future nurses would help me perform my share in improving humankind. I am also an active member of various professional and scientific societies, to include Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) Honour Society of Nursing which is based in the USA. I have travelled overseas to present my research on catheter-associated urinary tract infection and have publications on this topic.

I am a nurse who puts my values into action. My community involvement and advocacy worktranscend two countries and span two decades. I am one of the founders and currently the President of the Filipino Nurses Association of New Zealand, Incorporated (FNANZ). FNANZ is a newly-formed non-profit organisation of Filipino nurses who work together to unify and build positive relationships between Filipino nurses and their employers, other organisations and government agencies. FNANZ advances Filipino nurses’ welfare through advocacy, linkages, projects and policies.

I was recently recognised as an outstanding health professional and was given the Filipino-Kiwi Hero Award for a Health Professional by the Filipino Migrant News in 2016.

My Values

I am a believer of shared-humanity and equal opportunities which is in keeping with the Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Real development in health should be inclusive and should respect the values, beliefs and aspirations of the Maori people. Inequality should be reduced in all dimensions of human development, more importantly, in health.

I believe in the Whānau Ora approach having worked with families through community empowerment initiatives. Whānau ora within the NZ context is an inclusive approach to providing basic services. It is concerned with an intra- and intersectoral approach in supporting whānau achieve their maximum health potential and wellbeing. I had an experience in driving a similar approach having worked in developing communities.

I believe in active listening to staff and student concerns, non-discrimination and compassion. My experience in hands-on health care can help inform health policies and governance.

I am a full-time worker who knows the value of hard-work, productivity and excellence. Like you, I want an efficient and effective health care that I can help fight for when I become an NZNO board member.

Finally, I am willing to give my time cognizant of the fact that board membership is a public service position. I have the passion to drive excellent healthcare for everyone and defend patient’s and nurses’ rights at the board room.

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