The World Health Organization's Collaborating Centre for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Development at UTS (WHO CC UTS) was successful in securing grant funding of $177,000 under AusAID's Australian Leadership Awards (ALA) Fellowships.
The WHO CC UTS, in partnership with its counterpart organisation, the South Pacific Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers Alliance (SPCNMOA), used this grant to further develop their existing program - Health System Strengthening Nursing and Midwifery Leadership in the South Pacific for nurses and midwives in the Pacific region.
The program has now been running for several years resulting in a momentum and enthusiasm from the Pacific nurses and midwives that far exceeded initial expectations. Through the program the Pacific’s future leaders in nursing and midwifery have gained skills that have enabled them to strategically plan with key stakeholders, such as Ministries of Finance and Ministries of Health, projects in their countries which are still ongoing and having beneficial impacts today.
With more nurses and midwives participating in this year’s program the momentum of strengthened leaders will have far reaching impacts on health systems in the Pacific. Head of the WHOCC UTS and Dean of Nursing, Midwifery & Health at UTS, Professor John Daly says that there is a continued global need for this type of work if the WHO Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are to be met. "Strong leadership is fundamental in creating and maintaining effective hospital and health systems worldwide".
In brief, the program consists of a Country team of potential leaders in nursing and midwifery mentored by the Chief Nursing Officer in the Ministry of Health of their country. The teams, in collaboration with key stakeholders recognise a problem and devise an Action Plan to help solve it. A Reference group oversees the teams through constant communication, this not only ensures the program is running the way the SPCNMOA want it to, but enables them to meet in a trusting environment to share problems with Action Plan development and progress.
After months of support and communication between the participants, mentors, reference group and WHO CC UTS to devise an effective Action Plan, the program culminated in a two-week workshop at UTS where participants shared their individual Action Plans with each other and leading nursing and midwifery academics and experts from UTS.
WHOCC Director of Operations and Development, Michele Rumsey said, “It is a crucial part of the program that the ALA Fellows with their mentors devise their own action plan. They have first-hand experience of the health issues they, as a country, face; we work with them to provide them with the best tools and knowledge to tackle these issues."
After the workshop the participants go back home supported by WHO CC UTS to unfold their new Action Plans. Assistant CEO for Health Services Performance and Quality Assurance in Nursing and Midwifery in the Ministry of Health, Samoa, Pelenatete Stowers says: “Leadership is not just for people who are in positions like mine. In community settings, leadership is so important because it provides the skills that will help people manage the very limited resources they have." Building leadership capacity is vital to the provision of health care in the Pacific region. Rumsey says "The initial program developed in 2009 revealed an urgent need to increase leadership capacity-building and professional development amongst the talented nurses and midwives in the South Pacific. The enthusiasm to undertake the program was overwhelming – back in 2009 we received 156 applications for the 30 places that were available." Over the past few years 42 participants have benefited from the program in 12 Pacific countries.
The ALA Fellowships program has far and long reaching effects as the ALA Fellows are able to facilitate skills-transfer workshops with in-country colleagues and continue to network with regional country counterparts.