More community nurses for a better health system

"If I could change things it would be to free me up to spend more time with my patients." - Mimi Chu, community nurse
“If I could change things it would be to free me up to spend more time with my patients.” – Mimi Chu, community nurse

More community nurses would relieve the pressure on the public hospital system, says RN Mimi Chu.

A nurse of 14 years, Mimi Chu is passionate about improving the health and lives of her patients in south-west Sydney.

Mimi believes community nursing is about promoting wellness, preventing illness and empowering the community to take control of their health.

“I run clinics where Mum will come with a sick child for advice. For example if they have problems with their speech or toilet training issues or schooling issues – generally anything they need help with.

“My job is promoting healthier lives, linking my patients into other services and giving them the power to be healthy themselves,” she says.

A vital part of her job, Mimi says, is giving back control to her patients.

“Community nursing is about giving power back to the mother. I might immunize a child or if they don’t want to immunize, that’s up to them. If they have the knowledge they can make the right decisions.

“Communication is so important. It’s an important part of being a nurse and being a patient advocate.”

While she is proud of the service she and her colleagues provide, Mimi says more community nurses would improve the service and have flow through benefits for the rest of the health system.

“It is important we get more community nurses – the more the better. Preventative measures are good for patients.

“If we can prevent them getting sick then they won’t have to go into hospital. That will help the hospital system. It will reduce waiting lists.

“If we have more community nurses the health system will run more smoothly.”

Mimi supports the NSWNMA claim for a mechanism in community nursing that would mandate face-to-face hours with patients.

“I definitely think community nurses need something like ratios,” she said. “We’re in their homes and you have to understand that when you are in someone’s home you can’t rush things. They have to feel you’re genuine. If you rush out because you’ve got another six clients you have to visit, they don’t want to see you again because they don’t think you are there for them.”

Mimi says community nurses have a multitude of tasks that preclude them from spending sufficient time with their patients.

“We have a max of two hours with each visit and that includes travelling time. If we identify a need for it, we book a follow up. Just to do our computer work is one hour, so if they’ve got any issues – bearing in mind we’ve got to look at the baby, find out if the mum’s got feeding issues, sleeping issues – we don’t have the capacity.

“When you leave you just hope it’s okay. They might not use our system again and we might miss them.

“It’s very important that we have ratios in hospitals but it is important we have them in community nursing as well.

“Face-to-face time with my patients is very important. If I could change things it would be to free me up to spend more time with my patients. Our service would definitely be better.”