Solomon Islands’ nursing degree.

Nursing education in the Solomon Islands has come a long way since

the early 1980s when the highest award was a certificate in nursing,

administered by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS).

In 2011, the first bachelor of nursing (BN) course was launched at

the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE). This was the

result of an initiative between the MHMS’s nursing division and the

School of Nursing and Health Studies (SNHS) at SICHE, supported by an

external curriculum consultant from New Zealand. Auckland University of

Technology (AUT) principal lecturer Mary MacManus gave a joint

presentation about the development of the degree with MHMS director of

nursing Michael Larui and head of SNHS Verzilyn Isom.

MacManus and AUT senior lecturer Jo Conaglen began working with

Larui and Isom four years ago. The nursing degree was seen as a way of

upskilling registered nurses (RNs) across the country and of continuing

their academic development. This upskilling began when the diploma in

nursing was redeveloped in 2009.

“The Solomon Islands is now seen as a nursing stronghold among

Pacific countries,” MacManus said. “As a consultant on the

project, my role was to help find solutions for the Solomon Islands, to

sustain the development and to provide a regular injection of ideas to

keep the development moving forward.”

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The degree pathway begins with the completion of the three-year

diploma in nursing, followed by two years’ work as an RN. RNs then

have direct entry to a fourth year of study, with recognition of prior

learning. Students choose either to specialise in acute care or primary

health.

“The degree is a first for the Solomon Islands and will give

RNs, particularly those working in isolated, sole practice areas,

strengthened assessment and diagnostic skills,” the three

presenters said. “The BN has been designed to be relevant to

Pacific nursing practice and addresses local needs and issues. We hope

this first undergraduate degree will encourage the development of

others, with SICHE eventually gaining university status.”

Twenty-three students (11 female, 12 male) began the degree in July

2011, with 21 completing the following July. Most students had at least

10 years’ RN practice. Feedback from students was very positive.

Graduates praised the appropriateness of the programme for the local

situation, and felt all their skills and confidence had increased.

Further developments planned for 2013 include the development of a

midwifery degree and a BN in child health. Phase two of the

collaboration will be to encourage all nursing leaders and nurses in

senior positions to acquire postgraduate qualifications.

MacManus described her involvement in the BN development as

immensely satisfying. “We all learned a great deal in the process

and developed a partnership based on respect for each other’s

strengths. Having a shared goal of improving the standard of nursing in

the Solomon Islands made this an enriching collaboration,” she

said.