Networking for better health: the South Pacific Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers Alliance

Working on a remote South Pacific island and having to deal with a wide range of medical challenges on your own can present real challenges to your work as a healthcare professional.

In an urgent need to break down this isolation, senior South Pacific health professionals approached UTS in 2004 to become a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre (WHO CC) to aid the support of a regional nursing and midwifery alliance, which would revolutionise cross-national collaboration.

With WHO and Australian Government support UTS became a Collaborating Centre and Secretariat of the Alliance. WHO CC UTS has supported a comprehensive set of activities for self-determined capacity-building, including the DFAT Australia Awards Fellowship, a leadership and mentoring program designed to empower nursing and midwifery professionals. Graduates of the program have assumed senior roles and strengthened the healthcare systems in their home country.

The achievement of this Alliance can’t be understated. A collaboration focused on improving the health workforce, the partners have been able to get governments to act and the international community to listen. Most importantly, this collaboration has built confidence among professionals and as such, improved the quality of healthcare.

The key to the success of UTS as a WHO CC has been to acknowledge local professionals as the best people to understand their needs and issues. Instead of taking control and imposing ideas, the Director, Michele Rumsey stresses that there has always been a strong ethos to assist in partnership, not to dictate and to never be paternalistic:

“Our role is to be invisible. If we’ve done our job well, we have supported our partners and enabling them with knowledge, skills and links to strategic policies, they in turn gain confidence in their abilities and role,” Rumsey says.

While the UTS team was able to share much of their knowledge, a true collaboration implies exchange, and Rumsey says there was a wealth of wisdom and knowledge to be learned from our colleagues in the South Pacific.

“The desire to care is deeply imbedded in the collective culture of many South Pacific nations. There is a genuinely feeling of looking out for each other because family and community is everything.

“Here in Australia, we are all so busy – we are all rushing to do the next thing. Our Pacific colleagues have given us a powerful reminder of what we’re all here for – our families and our health,” Rumsey concludes.

It is with great honour that we are able to announce that Mrs Elisabeth Iro Cook Islands from the UTS WHO CC network is the global WHO Chief Nurse a new appointment directly reporting to WHO Director General. Links to stories below: from WHO CC UTS’s Tweet

Banner image: SPCNMOA meeting in Honiara, November 2016. Thumbnail image: Michele Rumsey meeting with South Pacific health professional in Tuvalu. Photos courtesy of Michele Rumsey.

Case study

The Problem

South Pacific health professionals are scattered across many remote islands, and work in isolation. The lack of collaboration and cohesion that such working conditions inevitably imply was impacting the quality of healthcare in these regions.

The Response

The South Pacific Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers Alliance (SPCNMOA) was established as a formal alliance to improve communication and facilitate collaboration in this region. Among the many activities involved was the Australia Awards Fellowship, a capacity-building mentoring program aimed at empowering senior nursing and midwifery professionals.

What helped accomplish this?

As the Secretariat of the Alliance, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre (WHO CC) UTS draws together a wealth of experience and knowledge in the area of nursing and midwifery. Its strong relationships, research focus, international platforms and connection to the regional partners have been a key enabler to support self-determined capacity-building activities.

What has changed as a result?

The alliance has now transformed into a sophisticated and integrated communication platform in which health professionals are better prepared to engage in policy making to improve their healthcare systems.


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Impact Area



UTS Faculty or Unit



Michele Rumsey and woman from the SPCNAMA

Michele Rumsey (right), Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Development
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