“Every second is our duty of care, and we must not miss a minute,” insists Veronica Wanum, Deputy Director of Clinical Nursing Services at Kavieng General Hospital.
While timely patient care may sound like an obvious requirement at this New Ireland provincial hospital, Ms Wanum says it is something she has had to re-emphasise to the 20 nurses she supervises following a year of study in Port Moresby.
Six months ago, Ms Wanum graduated with a Diploma of Government (Management) from the Papua New Guinea Institute of Public Administration (PNGIPA). The course, delivered by trainers from Australia-based CIT Solutions, was facilitated by the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct and brought together public servants from across PNG.
Since returning to Kavieng, Ms Wanum has been introducing key concepts from the course in an attempt to improve work practices and attitudes at the hospital.
“My main achievement has been implementing ideas from the Australian Public Service Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct in our hospital,” she explains. “I have been teaching the nurses about regulation, legislation, and expectations of public servants. Every second is our duty of care. We must be on time, and we must not miss a minute.
“I have taught the nurses this, and they are really happy to get this knowledge from me. We now have a better understanding of the scope of the public service, the school of medicine, and government as a whole.”
Another benefit of the Diploma has been an improvement in reporting procedures at the hospital. Ms Wanum explains: “I learnt how to write reports, so I have started teaching that to our staff, and I have introduced a new reporting structure. I have already seen our managers using the reporting knowledge I shared with them to write up their reports. Using my new skills, I have also done an evaluation and small survey of my on-call system and, as a result, I’ve written a paper recommending that we continue using my clinical on-call system for better patient care.”
Implementing change is not easy in a hospital with limited resources, and staff who have had little exposure to outside training. But Ms Wanum says that, despite initial resistance, attitudes are gradually shifting.
“My director now trusts me and the abilities that I have, so she delegates most of the jobs to me. I see that there is understanding now about what I’m doing. In terms of leadership and management, problem-solving and decision making, I’ve already made a change. In terms of communications skills, I’m on my way and it’s becoming more effective now. I am proposing a new policy framework, and I am yet to start work on our new organisational structure. But, by the end of December, I think we will see a very big difference. By then I will have done even more because of very good cooperation from the staff, and I really appreciate their support.”
As the only employee of Kavieng Hospital to participate in the 2015 Diploma, Ms Wanum is a strong advocate for the course, and hopes to see it made available to more public servants in future, both within and outside of the Department of Health.
“This Diploma should be for everybody working in the public service,” she enthuses. “The nurses say they’ve seen a change in me – they say that studying this Diploma has made me go to the next level. Before people do a degree in nursing, I would encourage them to study governance first, then it will be easier to put knowledge from the School of Government into nursing. I really learnt a lot, and I’m putting it into practice.”
Veronica Wanum studied for a Diploma of Government (Management) in 2015, delivered by Canberra-based CIT Solutions at the Papua New Guinea Institute of Public Administration, and facilitated by the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct. The Precinct is a joint initiative of the Governments of PNG and Australia to promote ethical leadership and strong governance within the public sector at the national, provincial and district level.