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Pacific partnership: Helena Goldie Project in the Solomons

A patient being assessed by a Nurse at the Helena Goldie Hospital. Photo courtesy of Russell Shakespeare, The Courier-Mail QWeekend Magazine

AN innovative partnership between UnitingCare Health and UnitingWorld is helping to change an entire nation and its future for the better.

The Helena Goldie Hospital in Munda in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands provides one of only three Diploma of Nursing programs available in this tiny nation. Run by the United Church in Solomon Islands, the hospital partners with the Uniting Church in Australia.

In line with the UnitingCare Health values of compassion, respect, justice, working together and leading through learning, UnitingCare Health and Uniting World joined forces to create the Helena Goldie Project to help with teaching and resourcing at the Helena Goldie College of Nursing.

Incorporating knowledge and expertise from a variety of disciplines ranging from nursing to chaplaincy to engineering, the Helena Goldie Project has expanded from offering aid only to building the country's capacity to manage its future healthcare needs.

Wendy Zernike, Director of Clinical Education at the Wesley Hospital and Manager of the Helena Goldie Project, said UnitingCare Health's support leads to more registered nurses, thereby benefitting all Solomon Islanders.

"The project is now in its third year and through our input we have been able to expand the course to be more thorough and to impart critically important learnings and teaching resources not only to the nursing students but also to the college's instructors so that this knowledge stays in the Solomon Islands for all its population to benefit from now and into the future," she said.

Recognising the need for well-trained and technically equipped nurses to address health concerns in the Solomon Islands, the Helena Goldie College of Nursing offers students a three-year diploma course to become registered nurses.

"We are excited that the first group of three-year diploma students will be graduating in December 2012 and that UnitingCare Health was able to sponsor two of the 16 nurses graduating," Ms Zernike said.

Training nurses is one part of an overall health strategy in the Solomon Islands.

Eighty-five per cent of Solomon Islands communities live in poverty on remote islands. For many, the closest medical facility is an outpost staffed by an Assistant in Nursing more than two hours away by canoe.

"The students are exposed to very practical methods of teaching which really sets us apart and provides the most effective and thorough teaching environment to assist them and their patients."

The nurses' training includes a week each year devoted to spiritual formation, Christian ethics, and study in the development of faith in a clinical setting. These courses are developed, taught and given to the nursing college for future teaching.

Rev Murray Fysh, Manager of The Wesley Hospital Pastoral Care Department, has travelled with the team and supported the other educators. He taught this course in the last visit in April 2012 and will continue to develop the course over the next year.

"The program is the embodiment of the church offering and sharing its resources for the benefit of all humankind," Rev Fysh said.

"The gift is not only one-way – we learn from the faith, commitment and hospitality shown to the patients and to us. We all learn from the experience and use what we learn in our home context."

UnitingCare Health staff are currently fundraising to help pay for the tuition, accommodation and meals for future students at the Helena Goldie College of Nursing, which is approximately $3000 per student per year.

You or your congregation may consider assisting the Helena Goldie Project by helping to sponsor a nurse. Make a donation on 1800 000 331 or at www.unitingworld.org.au. More information about the project is available on 07 3232 7572 or at helenagoldieproject@uchealth.com.au.

Photo : A patient being assessed by a Nurse at the Helena Goldie Hospital. Photo courtesy of Russell Shakespeare, The Courier-Mail QWeekend Magazine