Pacific nursing excellence

Culturally safe nursing care, the challenges of climate change and developing an indigenous nursing voice were some of the themes to emerge from the 18th biennial South Pacific Nurses’ Forum in the Solomon Islands.


Some of the New Zealand delegates. From left: NZNO kaumātua Keelan Ransfield, Nursing Council board members To’a Fereti and Catherine Byrne, and chief executive Carolyn Reed, Pacific Nursing Section chair ‘Eseta Finau, NZNO kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, president of Te Kaunihera o Ngā Neehi Māori Hemaima Hughes, NZNO chief executive Memo Musa and president Grant Brookes, and member of NZNO’s Greater Wellington Regional Council Jenny Kendall.

By president Grant Brookes

For the first time in its 34-year history, the South Pacific Nurses’ Forum (SPNF) was held in the Solomon Islands. More than 300 people gathered in the capital Honiara for five days at the end of October/early November – nurses and midwives, regulators, health sector leaders and representatives of national nurses’ associations (NNAs) from 10 Pacific nations.

The NZNO delegation comprised kaumātua Keelan Ransfield, Pacific nursing section chair ‘Eseta Finau, chief executive (CE) Memo Musa, kaiwhakahere Kerri Nuku and president Grant Brookes. There were eight others from New Zealand too.

Speakers addressed the theme “Towards nursing excellence for universal (Pacific) health” in plenary and concurrent sessions over the first four days, with cultural performances in the evenings. On the final day, NNAs and chief nursing and midwifery officers made a  series of decisions, including the need to transform nursing education, charting the way forward in the South Pacific over the next two years. From the opening address by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogovare, the health and social challenges facing the Solomons – as well as world-leading initiatives in culturally safe health-care emerging in the country – featured prominently. These included challenges posed by climate change.

It was also the first time the president of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Judith Shamian had attended the SPNF. She spoke about ICN’s role in shaping global health and development strategies, including work towards universal health coverage by 2030, as mandated by the World Health Organization and the United Nations’ sustainable develop- ment goals. In her keynote address and in a later meeting with NNA representatives, Shamian encouraged stronger participation in ICN by South Pacific nurses.

This issue was taken up in a joint presentation by Nuku and Finau, Voice for the Pacific. Finau pointed out that ICN Region 7 comprised NNAs from Asia and the Pacific. “But at ICN, our issues are not discussed. We need to be at decision-making tables.”

This was why Nuku was standing for election to the ICN board next year. “This is the time when we Pacific nurses need to stand together,” said Finau. “Within our region, the SPNF should be driven by the NNAs. But the last two forums have been driven by the chief nurses.”

In a separate presentation, Building a resilient indigenous workforce, Nuku expanded on the theme of having a specific indigenous voice within Pacific nursing.

This subject was also addressed by Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) CE Janine Mohamed.

She spoke of the deepening collaboration between CATSINaM and Te Rūnanga o Aotearoa NZNO. The idea of global connectedness grew “from this great dialogue of support and commonality”, she said. CATSINaM is now proposing a global alliance of indigenous nurses and midwives.

Although acknowledging that “indigenous” means different things in different countries, the NNA representatives who met on the final day approved changes to the SPNF constitution which would allow groups like CATSINaM to apply for full membership of the forum.

In a presentation titled Pacific nursing excellence – cultural democracy is choice, Finau stressed the need for health equity, freedom to practise culture without discrimination and ethnic-specific services. “If you have Tongans talking to Tongans, the information will go further.”

Finau was one of several speakers who compared some foreign health advisers and aid partners to “mosquitos”. “They fly in, then fly out,” she said, “without ensuring succession planning, so there is someone to take over. They don’t focus on ethnic-specific services, but on other things like ‘economies of scale’.”

Stand-out presentations on culturally safe health-care for one specific ethnic group in the Solomons came from members of the Atoifi Health Research Group (see article below).

The final theme running through the conference was climate change. Presenters included Solomon Islands nurse Alison Ripiapu Sio, Cook Islands emergency department nurse Nga Manea and mental health instructor from Atoifi Adventist Hospital James Asugeni. Speaking on current and likely mental health issues from rising sea levels in a remote coastal region of the Solomon Islands, Asugeni said the main city on Choiseul Island was set to become the first provincial capital in the world forced to relocate due to climate change.

His research focused on six villages nearby, where rising seas are inundating houses and places where families and communities gather. He found mental health issues affected all the survey participants.

NNA leaders agreed to prioritise action on the causes and health effects of climate change in our closing communiqué (more information on page 13*). •

(First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, December 2016. Reposted with permission).

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