In partnership with our funder, WAPHA, Bernie co-presented a workshop to the Australian Practice Nurse Association National Conference held in Perth 27-29 July.
Bernie is a registered nurse and leads GP down south’s Sexual Health Program and her co-presenter Sara is the Program Coordinator – Aboriginal Health WAPHA, and together they presented a one-hour session on improving Aboriginal health assessments and follow-ups.
A key element of closing the gap is to address preventable chronic conditions and to enable this practices need to ensure that Aboriginal clients are identified so they can utilise additional sessions and services to improve their health. Due to the disparities in health for Aboriginal people, there are a number of additional Medicare (MBS) items available to assist in providing best practice care. Improving the uptake of Aboriginal health assessments is linked with improvements in preventative health practices, however insufficient follow-up is a barrier to effective and safe care.
The workshop at the conference focussed on ways practices can support staff and clients to ensure that the uptake of these additional items. This session was useful regardless of the practice status as an Aboriginal health organisation. The importance of providing a service that is culturally safe, keeps focussed on the individual, prioritises proactive follow up and emphasises early intervention was delivered in this impactful session which had the audience wanting more.
The presentation addressed the lack of support for preventative health interventions targeted on the basis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, poor understanding of why they’re necessary and cultural safety as a continuum. As practices progress along the continuum they are more likely to have been able to reduce barriers. A key practice is allowing enough time for the health assessments – and this means that staff at all levels in a practice need to understand what is required and be trained to ask the right questions.
A strategic and practice-wide approach is needed to overcome barriers.
Bernie shared some ideas on how this could be achieved including safe yarning, piggy-backing on other appointments, being proactive about follow ups and dates and mostly – just keep communicating.
The presentation discussed the actions that nurses/Aboriginal health practitioners can take in their role specifically, with a focus on addressing four common barriers – demographics recorded/identification, time constraints, patient return for follow-up and cultural safety.
Bernie provided some great practical tips for how a nurse/Aboriginal health practitioner can contribute toward completion of an Aboriginal health assessment, and the types of services that could be provided as nurse/Aboriginal health practitioner follow-up. With a wealth of experience, Bernie was able to share her insights on relational aspects of engaging patients, including a ‘slow burn’ approach to supporting patients to take control of their health in a manageable way.
‘Nurses are a powerful workforce.’ ‘We, the grassroots providers recognise some of the issues before policy catches up.’ Aboriginal people have used fire for thousands of years to regenerate the landscape. Ignited health workers and nurses are the fire starters.’ Bernie Garnier
Classically self critical, Bernie said – “I never saw anyone asleep during the session so we must have got something right.”
Bernie, Georgie Carroll, Sara
GP down south is an exemplary not-for-profit community organisation. We have been providing health and wellbeing services in the Peel regions and the South West of WA since 1994.