Their title might be unfamiliar to some.  But preceptors play a critical – if sometimes lesser-known – role in helping today’s healthcare students become tomorrow’s skilled practitioners.

Preceptors are experienced health workers who mentor and assess student nurses and recent graduates to ensure that they understand and correctly perform clinical procedures.

Given PNG’s complex health environment, preceptors play a particularly important role here  – all the more so as the country continues its response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

It is with this in mind that Australia Awards in PNG is supporting its partner tertiary institutions that provide nursing and midwifery training to deliver preceptorship training for clinical tutors and hospital staff – who then share their knowledge with those they mentor.

These tertiary institutions also work closely with PNG’s National Department of Health, which has overall responsibility for preceptorship training.

Since 2018, Australia Awards has invested nearly K200,000 in preceptorship training as part of its partner tertiary institution capacity development program. This has resulted in 137 health workers trained in this all-important discipline.

Among them are the 33 new preceptors who completed a one-week preceptorship training at Pacific Adventist University (PAU) in Central Province.

Drawn from the university’s clinical tutors and partner health centre staff, the 33 new preceptors developed their mentoring and guidance skills, with a view to applying these skills widely with students and sharing with less experienced colleagues.

The training also strengthened professional networks by bringing together university academics and experienced frontline health workers.

One of the newly trained preceptors is Sister Antonia Guba, Clinic Manager at Six Mile Clinic in Port Moresby.

Sister Guba said the training at PAU helped her identify new areas for development at the clinic and ensure students have the necessary skills.

‘This training has really helped me to supervise the students better when they come to my clinic. I’m planning also to do in-house training with other staff and pass on the knowledge,’ she said.

Sister Antonia Guba of 6 Mile Clinic and Kupiano Health Center Officer-In-Charge, Valu Vanua

Fellow participant Valu Vanua, Officer-In-Charge at Kupiano Health Centre in Central Province, welcomed the training’s focus on mentoring skills.

‘Being a preceptor is quite a task, apart from our daily routine. This course has enhanced and improved our skills in precepting, and has also assisted us in supervising nursing staff in rural areas,’ he said.

The support is part of the Australian Government’s capacity development support for PNG tertiary institutions through Australia Awards, which is undertaken in close cooperation with the Government of PNG including local authorities.

The capacity development support also includes maintenance of institutions’ physical infrastructure, purchase of teaching equipment and a new network of e-libraries being rolled out in 2020. Since 2018, Australia Awards has invested over two million Kina in capacity development across 12 PNG institutions.