Time to care

"We still don't have enough nurses to see all the people who need seeing."
“We still don’t have enough nurses to see all the people who need seeing.”

The Association’s community health campaign aims to match the growing demand for more health care at home with more time for community nurses to deliver that care.

Helen Wilmore has a simple message for her local member of parliament: more community nurses will deliver better health outcomes and save the government money.

Helen, a women’s health nurse at Randwick Community Health in Sydney’s east, and fellow nurses are arranging to visit their state MP to seek support for the Association’s campaign for more time to care in community nursing.

Helen suspects the average politician is unaware of the wide range of services provided by community nursing, or the extent of unmet demand for health care at home.

“There has not been enough public awareness about the role of community nurses. People often do better if they can be cared for at home rather than in hospital, where they are more likely to pick up infections,” Helen said. “And keeping people out of hospital is a big economic save for the government.”

As a women’s health nurse in a community setting Helen focuses on preventative health care such as pap smears, breast checks, contraceptive advice and pregnancy care.

With 96 nurses and allied health workers, Randwick Community Health provides more than 50,000 “occasions of service” per year.

“However we still don’t have enough nurses to see all the people who need seeing and spend adequate time with those we do see,” Helen said. “A lot of our day is taken up with administrative work such as phone calls, copying notes into the computer and collecting statistics.

“We need to generate local activity to make politicians and the wider community understand the need for, and benefits of, more community nurses.”

A key message will be the need to set a maximum four-hour limit on face-to-face patient contact, averaged over a week – a central plank of the Association’s campaign.

Helen and colleagues are lining up volunteers to do a letterbox drop, and collecting stories from patients testifying to the value of community health services. These may help to interest the local media in covering the Association’s campaign. They will also spread the word among local organisations they are in regular contact with, such as neighbourhood centres, early child care and day care centres, and aged care centres.