St John of God Leadership Program In East Timor

As a community support initiative, we have been providing leadership training via the St John of God Social Outreach International Health Service Program in East Timor. The Health Manager Program was established to address leadership and management capability among nurses and other leaders at the Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares’ (HNGV) in Dili.

St John of God has been working with Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Health since 2010 and recently published an item on its website that goes into detail about the aims and progress of the program.

St John of God and WPHS East Timor Interview

Earlier on in the program I also had the opportunity to interview Kate Birrell, a Non-Executive Director of St John of God, and David Ramsay, the Country Manager for St John of God in East Timor about the status of the program at that time.

You can listen to the audio of that interview here and/or read some highlights of the interview below.


Download mp3. ​

  • Through working in the wards in East Timor, St John of God realised there was a low skill base around management and leadership for the nurse managers. The nurse managers were also proactive in asking for professional development.
  • Recommendations arising from some organisational reviews highlighted the need for effective leadership at the clinical level.Some local nurses were selected to participate in a training needs analysis to ascertain what the nurse managers were looking for in a leadership and management course. Three streams were developed; Leadership, Quality and Human Resources.
  • To ensure that only interested personnel participated, St John of God set up an application process that called for expressions of interest. Within the health system in East Timor this is an unusual approach as participants are usually appointed as determined by a superior.
  • Intake for the initial program in 2016 included three staff from the Institute of Health Education who participated specifically with the view of learning such that they could teach the course content in future programs.
  • To ensure learnings from the program were implemented within the workplace, each teaching block had an associated project for participants to execute. At the end of each project each participant gave a presentation explaining their project which had to incorporate an aspect of their learning from the program.
  • Participants are required to attend to written and practical tasks as documented in a workbook. The practical tasks are to be carried out in the workplace e.g. seeking feedback from patients or fellow staff with an analysis or reflection recorded in their workbook.
  • As part of the project component, one nurse manager undertook a patient allocation improvement project and another implemented a project for improved bedside handover.
  • Adding to the complexity of the challenge for health staff in East Timor is the number of active languages spoken. Portuguese, English and the local Tetum language are all spoken and need to be incorporated into both written and oral activities. One of the nurses on the program thus implemented a project that developed a schedule to ensure each of the languages were acknowledged and used in the hospital setting.
  • So far, the program has been providing immediate wins but the long term goal of the leadership program is to improve patient care and patient outcomes as well as to improve the prospects of managers aspiring to move forward on their leadership journey within the hospital system.
  • Leadership is so important in healthcare. These staff are accountable for delivery of care within their hospitals. People in healthcare are responsible for managing and introducing large scale changes of systems and process and to do this effectively they need to continually be developing their leadership skills.​

How do you manage a leadership program for hospitals in a multi-lingual developing nation? Try this. #healthcare #hr

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About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.

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