Specialised education for Pacific nurses continues amidst COVID-19


As COVID-19 continues to impact the world and place a burden on health care workers, the Pacific region identified that an increase in the confirmed number of cases will strain the already fragile Pacific public health sector.

When countries in the Pacific region reported confirmed COVID-19 cases, it was important to be prepared and have more specialised intensive care nurses given the current shortage.

The need to have more specialized nurses was also discussed at the inaugural Pacific Heads of Nursing meeting earlier this year. This meeting was timely given that 2020 is the year of the nurses and midwives and allowed Pacific heads of nursing to connect with each other, share challenges, solutions and provide support for capacity building.

Ms Alison Mcmillian, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer from Australia was present at this meeting as well and assisted with the opportunity of having Pacific nurses join this training. The Pacific Community (SPC) with funding assistance from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provided 114 nurses the opportunity to enroll into the critical care surge training program.

These nurses are from 17 Pacific Island Countries (PICTs) namely American Samoa, Cook Islands, CNMI, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Palau, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Tokelau and Vanuatu.

Mabel Taoi, Project Coordinator for Clinical Services Program at SPC’s Public Health Division says “This training is a short course that will prepare nurses who don’t usually work in intensive care to prepare themselves for critical care work in intensive care units as we have a shortage of specialised intensive care nurses”.

So far 78 nurses from 15 PICTs have completed this training program.


Shivashna Chand who is a nurse, works in the cardiac coronary unit at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital (CWMH) in Suva. She has successfully completed her surge critical care certificate.

“This training has increased my knowledge in cardiac nursing while at the same time I have upgraded my knowledge in intensive care. During this pandemic, it was important for us to expand our knowledge, especially during COVID-19 so that we can save lives and safeguard own”. These ongoing initiatives of upskilling Pacific nurses and health workers is critical for preparedness and response to COVID-19. SPC has also supported placement of 32 nurses in postgraduate certificates in critical care with funding assistance from DFAT.

The recently held 8th Pacific Heads of Health virtual meeting has alluded to the importance of strengthening in country measures which includes continuing capacity building and training of public health workers, nurses and doctors.

Public Health Division (PHD)