Capping face-to-face patient contact is a flexible solution for community nurses of all specialties.
Community nurses have an opportunity to win safer workloads if they get behind the NSWNMA’s current campaign to generate public support for the sector, believes women’s health nurse Linda Oliver.
“Community nurses desperately need a mechanism that deals with the time we spend face-to-face with clients,” says Linda, one of more than 40 nurses based at Mount Druitt Community Health Centre in western Sydney.
“Nurses at our centre work extraordinarily hard to try and meet KPIs without having a workable tool that allows them to maintain client safety.
“Our campaign for a four-hour daily limit on face-to-face patient contact, averaged over a week, is a reasonable solution.”
As the delegate of the Association’s Western Sydney Community Nurses’ branch, Linda attended a nurses’ forum that opted for the mandatory four-hour daily limit.
“We thought four hours per day would give us the flexibility to achieve safer patient care in the wide variety of nursing specialties that come under the community umbrella.
“There was a lot of discussion to find one formula that would work across diverse areas like health promotion, primary care and prevention, wound care assessment and treatment, and consulting on palliative care.
“We needed something that would fit with a range of services including home visits, running a community wound care clinic, doing a mental health assessment, or providing midwifery services for our antenatal clients.”
Most of Mount Druitt Community Health Centre’s work is in child and family health and chronic and aged care. Nurses also cover women’s health, palliative care, dementia, heart disease and obesity and mental health.
Linda says capping face-to-face hours should allow community nurses enough time for the long and often frustrating daily task of entering required patient information, such as clinical notes, referrals, management plans, medications and alerts, onto an electronic database.
Also time-consuming is the need to work via interpreters – almost 70% of Linda’s clients in 2012 were from non English-speaking backgrounds.
“It’s not just a translation problem, some concepts of health care and wellness are completely new to some of these women,” she said. “Our job in this campaign is to make the general public and politicians aware of the importance of community health work, in helping to keep people out of hospitals and nursing homes and raising the level of wellness in the community.
“Politicians need to understand that nursing doesn’t only take place in hospitals. Many of the clients we see are damaged by their lifestyles so we do a lot of work around nutrition, diabetes management and obesity.”
The Western Sydney Community Nurses’ branch plans to use a phone conferencing system to allow nurses at different community health centres to take part in branch meetings via the telephone.
“There are lots of reasons why people can’t physically get to lunchtime branch meetings. Often they feel they are too busy or they are not allowed to drive work cars to union meetings.
“We hope phone conferencing will maximise participation in meetings and the campaign activities that flow from them.”
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