COVID-19 presents one of the most complex challenges the region faces right now.  Now imagine being a nurse on the frontline of PNG’s health response.

These difficult times however are an opportunity for nursing students to reflect on their choice of study, the demanding nature of this profession and the need to utilise their learnings to benefit their communities.

Meet nursing student Steven Johnson – one of 10 scholars currently studying at the Lae School of Nursing under the Australia Awards and Newcrest Partnership program.

Steven said the pandemic has re-affirmed his decision to do his best in his studies and to be able to contribute to vital health service delivery when he joins the workforce.

To show the awardees demonstrating the use of basic hygiene stations across the school grounds

Newcrest-sponsored awardees from left, Yolanda Som, Alice Jungai and Steven Johnson demonstrate using a hand washing basin at school.

“The experience and challenges of COVID-19 has in a way shown me what to expect and how to respond as a nurse in such situations in the future,” he says.

The pandemic has also pushed him to be more health conscious and keen to extend awareness on Covid-19 to his family and friends.

Fellow Newcrest awardee and second year nursing student, Alice Jungai, isn’t waiting to be working to apply her skills and knowledge – she too is already extending awareness to family members and friends.

“I understand that as a nurse I will be at the frontline attending to patients but I can get started at home.

Observing [COVID-19] developments during this time has put me in a situation where I am doing awareness at home.

For example a relative recently asked me for advice on how to avoid contracting the disease – my response was basic preventative measures that I had learnt in school such as practise respiratory hygiene, wash or sanitising hand regularly, practising social distancing and cover your mouth and nose when around people or avoid crowded places” she says.

Steven and Alice will join the ranks of more than 40 students who have received support to take up nursing and midwifery through funding by the Australian Government-Newcrest Mining partnership.

The majority of graduates are now contributing to Papua New Guinea’s workforce and essential service delivery, which highlights the value of partnerships with the private sector to PNG’s development achievements.