Monday, July 8, 2013

PNG mental health nurses train in Cairns

A plea for help from mental health nurses in Papua New Guinea has been answered by academics from James Cook University’s World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre (WHOCC) for Nursing, Midwifery and Research Capacity Building.

PNG nurses and community health workers wanted to improve their skills and knowledge so they approached WHOCC director Professor Kim Usher at a conference in PNG last year.

“Most of the people who work in mental health in PNG were trained a long time ago and there are few opportunities for continuing professional development in their country,” Professor Usher said.

Papua New Guinea has a mental health facility on the outskirts of Port Moresby, treatment is also offered at Port Moresby General Hospital and in the community.

“We developed a proposal for an AusAID Australian Fellowship Award grant and our team was successful in obtaining a grant to run a mental health course,” Professor Usher said.

The result is a four-week course to be run out of JCU Cairns, which will be attended by 20 nurses and health care professionals from seven Pacific nations - Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Palau, Niue, Cook Islands and Kiribati.

The course starts on July 1 and includes lectures, workshops, clinical visits to public and private mental health facilities and a mental health first aid course. Participants will attend presentations by people living with mental illness and mental health support groups like headspace.

Professor Usher said the course was one way to help improve mental health care delivery in the Pacific.“We are doing this to improve the care of people with mental health generally … there is a shortage of qualified mental health workers and a shortage of ongoing training opportunities in the Pacific,” she said. “We cannot train everyone from every country so we have targeted this course at nurses and professionals who will then go back to their home countries to teach others. Our concern for the future is to give professional people the tools and skills they need to go back to their homes and improve the mental health care of others.”

You can follow proceedings on Twitter @JCU_Nursing #alajcu2013 or view album on our Facebook page at

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