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The Lenity Scholarship Program -

Raising the standard of nursing care in Tonga

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Background

 

The Lenity Scholarship Program – the first of its kind to exist in Australia - will raise nursing care to a new level of excellence in the Kingdom of Tonga.

 

The health of the Tongan people is of the highest priority for the Tongan Government. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) -  such as cardiovascular and diabetes - are endemic and present an increasing drain on the economy.  These diseases contribute to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in Tonga. (The World Health Organisation reported that NCDs accounted for around 74% of all deaths in Tonga in 2008.)  Early detection, prevention and management are critical. Poor diet, lack of physical exercise, smoking and the harmful use of alcohol are the main contributing factors.    Compounding this issue is that Tonga, with a population of approximately 107,000, is spread over an archipelago of over 170 islands covering 750 square kilometres.

 

In 2014, the United Nations deployed 20 qualified NCD-focused nurses.  These nurses have been stationed at health and diabetes centres throughout Tonga, including the outer island groups.  Whilst the process of halting and reversing the effects of NCDs has started which, in turn, has reduced hospital admissions and subsequently health care costs, the need for increased intervention programs is urgent.  The process of addressing these NCD’s  has started but much more needs to be done.

 

A pre-requisite of the Tonga National Qualification and Accreditation Board (TNQAB) is that teachers have a qualification at least one level higher than the course they teach.  However, the qualifications of the teaching staff at the Queen Salote School of Nursing (QSSN) only allow student education up to diploma level as most teachers at the QSSN are only educated to bachelor’s degree level.  Consequently, the lack of master’s level qualified nursing teachers limits the number of bachelor degree nurses and impacts on the quality of care and the effectiveness of the health sector. Arming these educators with post-graduate qualifications will result in more nurses reaching bachelor’s degree status.  The flow-on effect will result in an increased number of more highly-skilled health professionals who will be at the forefront in the delivery of essential (basic by Australian standards) care.  The master’s level qualification has the potential to greatly improve the quality and safety of nursing and healthcare practices and health outcomes.

 

Lenity Australia is proud to be funding scholarships to train 6 nurses, over a three-year period, to master’s Level (Advanced Learning Masters) at the Sydney University School of Nursing, globally ranked in the top 10 nursing schools. The Lenity Scholarship Program presents a powerful opportunity to make a substantial difference and contribution to health practices and outcomes for Tongans. Of significance, within 3-5 years of the introduction of the Lenity Australia Scholarship Program, there could be between 6-10 master’s graduates which would enable Queen Salote School of Nursing to apply to teach at degree level.

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The Project

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The Advanced Learning Masters will allow nurses to propel their skills and knowledge, raising the standard of nursing practice and the delivery of health care in Tonga. The broad areas of health include:

  • Primary Health Care

  • Mental Health

  • Intensive Care

  • Advanced Nursing Practice

  • Cancer and Haematology Nursing

  • Emergency Nursing.

Two concurrent Lenity scholarships will run each year, enabling a member of the Queen Salote School of Nursing and a senior clinician to come together and study at the same time as increased value can be gained by clinical and academic nurses undertaking education in the same area of speciality nursing. It is expected that once the nurses have completed their course and returned to Tonga, they will be drivers of significant improvements in education and clinical practice.  The specialisation of the course would vary for each intake on a needs basis to ensure optimal breadth of nursing knowledge is acquired in Tonga. 

 

Key outcomes would include:

  • The translation of advanced knowledge to inform best practices, policies and building a curriculum across a range of specialities;

  • Increased capacity to educate the nursing profession to higher standards; and

  • A direct impact on the safety and quality of healthcare practice and health outcomes.

 

What is Lenity’s involvement?

Lenity Australia is providing the financial support for the scholarship program as it believes that all Tongans are entitled to live a healthy life.  Lenity will oversee progress to ensure improved health outcomes are achieved in the Tongan community.  Moreover, educated Tongan nurses to Master’s Level will allow them to educate their own to Degree level resulting in a sustainable long-term difference to health outcomes throughout the Kingdom of Tonga.