Nursing Dean develops first generation of Non Communicable Disease Focused Tongan nurses

Nursing Dean develops first generation of Non Communicable Disease Focused Tongan nurses

Professor Jill White, Dean of the Sydney Nursing School recently visited Tonga for a very special event, the graduation of 20 nurses with Advanced Nursing Diplomas in the prevention, detection and management of non-communicable diseases (NCD). The graduation ceremony was attended by Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau’u Tuku’aho.

The group are Tonga’s first qualified NCD focused nurses. They completed the 30-week course in December 2013 and will be stationed at health centres and diabetes centres across Tonga, including all outer island groups.

Their role is to identify patients at high risk of developing an NCD, provide advice, and help those with an already diagnosed condition to manage their illness. Results from the successful pilot program which began in 2012 in five health centres, provided the basis for up expanding the NCD nurse program.

The Ministry made the decision to create a new cadre of nurses dedicated to NCD because these diseases are so widespread in Tonga. NCD such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes are some of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in Tonga. Poor diet, lack of physical exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption are the main factors contributing to the onset of NCD. The World Health Organization reported that NCD accounted for 74 per cent of all deaths in Tonga in 2008.

Dr. Siale ‘Akau’ola, Director for Health said the graduation of the NCD nurses represents an important milestone for Tonga.

“Not only will it assist in achieving our objective of halting and beginning to reverse the effect of NCD, it should also reduce hospital admissions and subsequently reduce the expensive health spend that hospital admissions can create.”
The development of the Advanced Diploma was financed through the Tonga Health Systems Support Program. The $8.3 million Australian-funded program assists with improving health outcomes in Tonga, with a particular focus on reducing NCD risk factors.

Australian High Commissioner Brett Aldam said: “Australia congratulates Tonga on the NCD nursing initiative. By working with the community, the newly-graduated nurses will be at the forefront of efforts to tackle the significant health, social and economic impacts of NCDs.”

The NCD nursing course is accredited by the Tonga National Qualification and Accreditation Board. It was developed by the Ministry of Health with assistance from Professor White, and taught by well-known local medical practitioners, including surgeon specialist, Dr Viliami Tangi, and Royal Physician Dr Sione Latu.

Professor Jill White at presentation