Southern District Health Board nursing and midwifery director Leanne Samuel has visited Rarotonga for a 15-day review of health standards and competencies for government – documents that had not been updated in some years.
The review applies to Rarotonga Hospital and the nurse-led health service in the outer islands.
Samuel, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry, has been providing technical advice on clinical nursing standards, as well as ‘competencies’ – certain skills nurses must be able to demonstrate in order to remain on the register.
“You have to have competencies to demonstrate you’re safe. We’ve updated the competencies so the Cook Islands is current for 2013,” said Samuel.
While standards and competencies were already in place in the Cooks, they had not been updated since 2009. Ideally, they should be updated annually.
“Keeping the documents updated is a real challenge no matter where you are,” said Samuel. “In New Zealand, we have to work hard to keep them updated as well, because there are just so many documents.”
Chief nursing officer Ngakiri Teaea said she is pleased the Cook Islands has been able to benefit from Samuel’s expertise.
“She’s done things outside what she had to do,” said Teaea. “We’re really lucky to have her.”
She said it is important for nurses to have standards that are up to date.
“It’s to get them so they can practice safely and give qualified health care to the people out there.”
Samuel, who also looked at midwifery policies and standards for public health nurses, said she has used documents from the Southern District Health Board, but localised them.
“It’s never going to be the same as it is in New Zealand, because it’s in the Cook Islands,” she said. “What I’ve spent my time doing is converting it to a Cook Islands equivalent, because we don’t use the same equipment as we do in, say, Dunedin (New Zealand)we have different disease profiles – but the principles are the same.”
Samuel arrived in the Cooks on August 15 and flies back home tonight (Saturday). No stranger to the Cook Islands, her husband is from Mangaia and she has visited the country many times.
“It’s probably easier for me to do this work because I know what it’s like here,” she said.
Teaea added that while it is important to have a technical advisor with good knowledge of the Cook Islands, it is also beneficial to have an outside perspective.
“I think it’s really important to bring someone in from the outside,” she said.
Samuel said she has enjoyed working with the nurses in the Cooks.
“I was really struck by the nurses’ enthusiasm and the commitment they’ve got to continual improvement.”
She said she was encouraged to apply for the position of technical advisor – which was funded by the Cook Islands Ministry of Health – by the chief executive of the Southern District Health Board Carole Heatly.
“She said, go share what you can – I got her full support to use whatever resources and documents we had,” said Samuel.
The documents are currently in electronic form, but Samuel intends to print hard copies in New Zealand and send them back – with each outer island to receive their own copy.
Under the Cook Islands Nurses Council (CINC), nurses must be assessed each year according to the competencies outlined in the now updated documents. The next assessments will take place early next year.