News: Letter from the field (6 months)

Annette and her students
Annette Pocock, from Canberra, is working as a Nurse Educator at St Mary’s School of Nursing, Papua New Guinea.

Hello all.

I am teaching at St Mary’s School of Nursing, Kokopo, in East New Britain Island, which is a privilege and indeed a great pleasure. The staff are wonderful and the girls are just too delightful. I really couldn’t have expected a better assignment. The school is situated on the beautiful tropical grounds, of Vunapope, under the Catholic Archdiocese of Rabaul along side of St Mary’s Hospital.

The students are all female and come from all over PNG to study here. There are about 30 girls in each year. St Mary’s, it seems, has a quite a good reputation for nurse education. In conjunction with Divine Word University, in Madang, St Mary’s aims for students to be able to undertake a Bachelor of Nursing. The change from hospital-based nursing training to a university-linked diploma, commenced in 2003. Students now graduate with a Diploma in Nursing, following three years of study, including essential training in obstetrics.

New Britain people crowd the pier to watch a ceremony.
Nurses are certainly the primary caregivers in PNG and the backbone of the health care system. Doctors are mainly found in large provincial hospitals and about 75% of all nurses work in rural health care facilities. The current graduate program prepares nurses to work in both hospitals and to be able to work independently in rural areas, with minimal supervision. The program aims to train nurses to meet the needs of the Papuan New Guinean people using the limited resources that are available. It fosters a very ‘hands on’ nursing approach with little technology & using adult education methods of teaching and problem solving.

Apart from work, I get plenty of opportunities to do nice things like snorkeling around the gorgeous coral reefs, which I’m told, and don’t find too hard to believe, are some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world. I’ve never really got all that excited about fish before, but do now. Dolphins are an everyday thing. Large pods of dolphins hang out around parts of ENB island & nearby islands and you get used to swimming with sharks that are happy to munch on the fish and leave you be.

The atmosphere is relaxed. The people are beautiful and never fail to greet you with a smile & friendly hello. It’s always brings a smile to my face when I see people holding hands, be it a couple of teenage boys or girls, middle aged men or kids. It’s such a natural and endearing aspect of the culture. Students often hold your hand when they come to talk to you. It’s so nice. The children are just way too cute.

So all in all it has been great to have had this opportunity to come and work here and I only hope the students and staff benefit from my being here as much as I am. I look forward to the next year & half and getting to know the girls a lot more.

I guess I should say something in Tok Pisin, not that I’ve actually learnt all that much, so inap long nekstaim (until next time) or as it has been just pointed out to me, is better to say na lukim yu long baintain (see you next time).


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Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. - Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe