Geographical remoteness, limited telecommunications and critical-care incidents are familiar challenges for many nurses working in Papua New Guinea.

This has motivated three nurses from Morobe and New Ireland Provinces to develop their skills and give back to their communities as midwives.

Azeria Yatu, Rebecca Tiriau and Sandy Kongos recently commenced a Bachelor of Midwifery at St Mary’s School of Nursing in East New Britain.  The three women’s study is supported by a partnership between Newcrest Mining and Australia Awards PNG.

In eight years as the Family Health Nurse at Malahang Health Centre in Lae, Azeria said she witnessed a rise in pregnant women coming to the health centre for antenatal care.

“Among them are some with complications which are unidentified and undetected”, Azeria says.

“With my nursing knowledge, I tried my very best to identify and refer these women as early as possible to the general hospital.  But sometimes without early referral, mothers face serious complications.”

Fellow awardee Sandy, who worked as a nurse in the postnatal ward of ANGAU Memorial Provincial Hospital, says a desire to expand her clinical knowledge inspired her to pursue a midwifery degree.

“In my years of working with mothers and babies, I have always faced challenges in knowledge gaps about certain life-saving procedures that only a midwife could perform,” Sandy says.

“I’m here [at St Mary’s] to master the knowledge and skills and to go back and teach my colleagues about ways we can overcome such obstacles.”

For Rebecca, remoteness was a constant challenge as a Nursing Officer In Charge at Metemana Health Centre in New Ireland – and she had a motivation to step up.

“The distance from the health centre to the main hospital is up to three hours by boat. Referral of patients is a big challenge,” Rebecca says.

“I want to learn more about obstetric complications and their management and go back and help the mothers and children in my community.”

The three awardees, who commenced studies in February this year, are looking forward to a productive 18 months of study as Newcrest-sponsored awardees.

“To be sponsored by Newcrest means a lot to me”, Rebecca says. “I’ll do my best and go out and continue to be part of the team to combat maternal mortality.”

Since 2017, nearly 40 Papua New Guinean nurses and midwives have been trained through the partnership between Newcrest and Australia Awards PNG.

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