Supporting Indonesia's nurses

Researchers in La Trobe University's School of Nursing and Midwifery are working to address post-registration education needs of Indonesia's nurses.

In the past three decades Indonesia has made significant progress in economic and human development, resulting in a longer life expectancy and a growing population of older people. Reforms to the nursing profession in the past decade have laid the groundwork for addressing some of these concerns, although widespread implementation of new government policies around access to healthcare for all is challenging.

In 2015 Dr Sonia Reisenhofer travelled to Surabaya, the capital of the East Java province of Indonesia, and became aware of the need for ongoing professional education for nurses working in Indonesian hospitals. The medical system is extensive, with more than 2.5 million nurses across Indonesia; providing nursing care for a population of more than 261 million people.

“Nurses are a crucial part of any healthy country, but to remain relevant and provide the best possible care for a patient they need regular professional development,” says Dr Sonia Reisenhofer, a researcher from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at La Trobe University.

Dr Reisenhofer and a team of educators are working closely with Dr Hans Wijaya, CEO of National Hospital Surabaya, to better understand and meet the post-registration education needs for nurses across Indonesia.

“In Indonesia there are two issues that have created a sizable gap between doctors and nurses,” says Dr Wijaya. “The first is a cultural perception that nurses are the servants to doctors. We need to change that mindset but that is going to take time.”

“The second is a lack of leadership skills and specialisation amongst current nurses, and to address and encourage these qualities, we need to ensure they are instilled from the first day of training and supported after nurses start working in the healthcare environment. Indonesia needs to be prepared to meet the challenges of a large and ageing population, and we need  well-educated, confident nurses.”

Dr Reisenhofer and her colleagues from La Trobe University and Universitas Pelita Harapan in Jakarta are using a survey tool developed by the World Health Organization to assess the post-registration education of nurses. The survey explores the needs of nurses including improved clinical skills, advanced practice roles, mentoring junior staff, and communication skills with patients, colleagues and senior staff.  More than 1300 nurses have already responded to the survey and the team is looking forward to deepening their understanding of what nurses state they need to enhance their nursing practice and improve patient outcomes.

“Nursing is a relatively lowly paid profession with a need to enhance professional respect in Indonesia, but nurses show an intense desire to help their patients and they desperately want to provide the best care,” says Dr Reisenhofer. “With the relationships we are currently developing in Indonesia, La Trobe University is in an excellent position to support the existing post-registration education sector and address some of these challenges.”