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Post-graduate certificate in child health nursing (PGCCHN) – Fiji and Tonga – training a further cohort is underway Year 5
PGCCHN cohort1 2020

Summary of initiative

In 2019, 20 students (from Fiji and Tonga) enrolled to take part in the PGCCHN, which is a partnership between Counties Manukau Health (CM Health) and the Fiji College of Nursing and the Sangam College of Nursing. The programme curriculum and prerequisites for the PGCCHN align with reputable international academic institutions.  Due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions the last block-course week of the cohort was facilitated on-line with the Regional Health Team’s senior programme manager leading the course teaching, in conjunction with colleagues in Fiji and NZ. At the end of 2020, all the students (18 women and 2 men) graduated with a class average mark of 76 percent, and six passed with Distinction.

The course was so successful that it is underway again in Year 5 – in Fiji and Tonga with discussions underway for a future programme in Samoa.

The situation

As the COVID-19 pandemic border and travel restrictions continue CM Health and partner countries explored options to implement all the components of the NZMTS and SHPP in Year 5. The Ministries of Health in both Fiji and Tonga were very pleased with the outcome of the PGCCNH course delivered last year under Component 3 (strengthening in-country capacity) and the feedback from participants, that they requested that it be repeated. The Samoa Ministry of Health has also expressed interest for their nurses to be able to participate.

CM Health responded positively and arranged for the education and training materials and equipment (e.g. textbooks, paediatric stethoscopes and mannequins) to be freighted ready for the start of the delivery of the 2nd round of the PGCCHN teaching in August 2021.

Health problem: The programme responds to the limited nursing specialisation education, especially those with a passion of child health. Nursing leaders across Fiji and Tonga have been planning for increased nursing specialisation opportunities and this programme has been able to meet a need that had the full support of nursing leaders and MOH. The initial work to write the curriculum and seek relevant partnerships and necessary approvals was in response to a request made through NZMTS by The Fiji Nursing Council and The Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer. Working groups ensured the curriculum was fit for purpose in a Fiji and Pacific context while being academically sound and rigorous within a global environment.

By providing a qualification that is approved and recognised (by the Fiji Higher Education Commission and the Tonga National Qualifications and Accreditation Board) nursing staff, who graduate from the programme, can use it for career progression, such as Nurse Specialist roles, and to potentially access further learning possibilities, e.g. Masters programmes.

Funding constraints for education, and having higher education opportunities available, is often an impediment to ongoing learning opportunities.  In addition, priority is not always forthcoming for upskilling nursing staff in the Pacific.  

The strategy (rationale for intervention)

Our strategy had 2 prongs:

  1. To offer an internationally approved and recognised qualification in child health to nurses in the Pacific that will be recognised in-country, and thus enduring past the lifetime of the NZMTS.
  2. To prepare safe, competent and confident Child Health Nurses with the relevant knowledge and skills which will enable them to make significant contributions to improving the health and wellness of children and families in their communities.

Noting the success for the first cohort, and requests for a repeat, CM Health has welcomed the opportunity to support the education of further cohorts, that is now underway in Year 5. Participants are just as passionate as they were in the first cohort and based on the experience (especially in Fiji) of COVID-19, are keen to up-skill and see their profession and professionalism well recognised.

In Fiji Nursing Leaders agreed to progress with a second cohort if the curriculum and teaching and learning could be largely on-lone. Block weeks are not possible due to closed borders and Fiji requested redevelopment to allow the programme to go ahead. The modality was adapted to be largely on-line to make use of the NZ based educators which therefore meant participants from outer islands could join. One male and 19 females now make up the cohort spread across five sites participating in the two semester course.

In Tonga the Ministry of Health endorsed the redesigned curriculum and approved 21 PGCCHN participants (2 males and 19 females) from Tongatapu and the outer islands of Vava’u, Ha’apai and E’ua. 

Results and impact

For the first cohort a course completion survey was undertaken and 80% of the respondents said they were more confident in their ability as child health nurses. (This aligned well with the NZMTS Short-term outcome of 80% of in-country health care professionals being confident in new skills received through training.)  It is too early to know the results from this 2nd cohort however  early indications from the programme  so far are very positive with 100% of respondents noting they are confident on their ability to succeed in the programme.  There is excellent participation, interaction and assignments/homework are completed on time and are of exceptional quality.

The Tongan graduate of the first cohort is involved in the teaching in Year 5 with the aim of developing a Tonga based teaching team by 2023. Previous graduates from Fiji are also assisting in the teaching activities with a plan to establish a Fiji based teaching team by 2023. With the redeveloped curriculum and teaching being fully-online, other PICs countries can now participate in future courses.


Connectivity constraints can sometimes present a challenge, but this has largely been overcome with the first cohort and teaching has now been adapted to enable participants in multi-sites to join. Participants can come to a space that is dedicated for training and has good wifi and IT equipment, however often they are in the comfort of their own home. Participants  do not all need to be in the same classroom. The philosophy adopted is ‘Learning without wires and walls’.

Participants do need to be released and have the time to do study and homework.  If the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing vaccination work presents resourcing constrains, CMH will work with that country to ensure that participants can complete the course.

Lessons learned

Adopting a country-led approach leads to the best results and CM Health has been excited by the way partner countries have gotten the course recognised, run an EOI process to select participants and prioritised ensuring that nursing staff are available to attend the on-line classes.

Any recommendations

The delivery model for this course needs to be adaptable and flexible to support participants in remote locations, this has been done for Year 5 in Fiji and Tonga. However, adding additional countries and locations will require further thinking through.

Using graduates to undertaken and support the education for future cohorts is important for sustainability and the eagerness of Fiji and Tonga to pursue this needs continued support. It may be necessary to provide some specific training of trainers (ToT) support.

students confidence in PGCCHN cohort2 success

Less than a minute to read Communications Team

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