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Nurses learn from Solomon Islands experience

Annette Bailey training second year Diploma of Nursing student, Angelica, on new equipment. Photo by Wendy Zernike
THE HELENA Goldie Hospital in Munda in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands has one of the few Diploma of Nursing programs in the island nation.

Run by the United Church in Solomon Islands, the Helena Goldie Hospital partners with the Uniting Church in Australia.

As part of the partnership UnitingCare Health is committed to helping the Helena Goldie Hospital and Nursing College through missional work which links strongly to their values of compassion, respect, justice, working together and leading
through learning.

Director of Clinical Education at Brisbane’s Wesley Hospital and the Helena Goldie Hospital Program Clinical Project Leader, Wendy Zernike, said up to three clinical volunteers from UnitingCare Health hospitals travel to the Solomon Islands twice a year to teach at the Helena Goldie College of Nursing and work in partnership with Helena Goldie Hospital staff .

In May, Ms Zernike was accompanied to Munda by Annette Bailey, Clinical Nurse Manager from St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital Emergency Unit in Brisbane, and Kathy Johns, Peri-operative Clinical Nurse from St Stephen’s Hospital in Maryborough.

“The three-year, diploma level nurse training programs in the Solomon Islands are helping to improve healthcare outcomes for the nation’s communities,” said Ms Zernike.

“We spent a lot of the time helping in the hospital wards, gaining an understanding of the conditions the staff work in, the
equipment available and the kind of illnesses and conditions the patients presented with.”

Ms Zernike said conditions at the 55-bed hospital are basic.

“Other than an old X-ray machine, there were no diagnostic tools or running water and when we were there last year, two out of three of the sterilising machines weren’t working when we arrived.”

The team was joined for two days by UnitingCare Health Executive Director, Richard Royle, and former UnitingCare Health Director of Mission and founder of the Helena Goldie Hospital Program Clinical Project, Rev Robyn Kidd.

Mr Royle said the experience has opened the staff ‘s eyes to the intricacies and challenges of dealing with remote medicine with very limited resources in a third-world environment.

“We have found that the best way is not to impose our views, but to learn as we work with the Helena Goldie Hospital clinical staff and the remote island nurses,” Mr Royle said.

“It’s difficult to get supplies and equipment to the hospital and the remote islands.

“It’s also difficult to maintain the equipment, so we found the most beneficial way to add value is through education.”

The team also travelled to some of the surrounding islands with the remote area health clinic to see how care was provided to people within their own villages.

The remote health clinics occur around every eight weeks when a doctor, specially trained nurses, dentist and a pharmacist spend up to a week visiting the local villages and providing treatment.

Ms Zernike said she was in awe of the work done by the visiting health clinics and the Helena Goldie Hospital staff .

“The health care teams involved do so much incredible work in the most basic of Nurses learn from Solomon Islands experience conditions,” she said.

The team will return to the Solomon Islands in September to teach first and second year College of Nursing students.

Ms Zernike said they are looking at opportunities for sponsorship or to fundraise so nurse aides are not financially
disadvantaged while they study.

“To train to become diploma qualified the nurse aides would lose their accommodation at the hospital or clinic they work
at, lose their wages and have to pay for the course until they are diploma qualified.

“The cost of the course per year, including living in, per student is around $5000,” she said.

Photo : Annette Bailey training second year Diploma of Nursing student, Angelica, on new equipment. Photo by Wendy Zernike