News

Primary health care starts at the hospital door


13 December 2011

This project is the result of a collaboration involving Sydney Nursing School.
This project is the result of a collaboration involving Sydney Nursing School.

A unique self-directed learning resource to assist nurses working in rural health acute care settings was launched on Monday 12 December.

The learning resource will assist nurses to enhance their skills and knowledge of a primary health care and wellness approach to patients, particularly those suffering from chronic diseases.

The Primary Health Care Principles for Practice was produced through an exciting collaboration between the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD), Sydney Nursing School at the University of Sydney and the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW.

According to project lead, Associate Professor Yun-Hee Jeon from Sydney Nursing School, "This project is unique in its approach to instilling the notion that primary health care begins at the hospital door. For acute care nurses this is where they first meet their patients but not where health care ends.

This learning package will assist nurses to use primary health care principles as a way of enriching their clinical practice and enable them to respond to contemporary patterns of health and illness with appropriate models of care.

Dr Elizabeth Harford from MLHD who instigated the project said, "Nurses in smaller rural communities are highly regarded by their local communities and are trusted for the advice that they can provide. They also take pride in unique skills, networks and potentials they have as rural nurses and as part of rural communities.

"Primary health care is not well-understood by acute care health professionals. For nurses in acute hospital settings in particular, there tends to be more emphasis on treating the patient's immediate medical condition rather than thinking about how we approach the person receiving the care and their unique ongoing health care needs, which requires multi- and inter-disciplinary collaboration across health and social care sectors," Dr Harford said.

"A greater understanding by health care professionals working in hospitals about the need for comprehensive, coordinated, accessible and equitable health care will assist patients to get the care they need, especially those with chronic illnesses," Yun-Hee Jeon said.

Project consultations with nurses and managers working in smaller rural health care facilities indicated that there was a strong desire from various levels of nursing staff to improve their understanding of primary health care and the skills to deliver it. It was also found that their capacity was often constrained. Their work was affected by resource limitations, communication barriers and fragmentation of services which were compounded by geographical challenges.

The Primary Health Care Principles for Practice workbook provides nurses working in a variety of rural health care facilities, including Multi Purpose Services, with relevant case studies drawn from clinical practice, dealing with diverse populations, including Aboriginal people, and with multiple chronic health conditions.

Nurses using the workbook are required to work in pairs or groups to promote collaborative learning and discuss the issues with their patients and their families to understand the context of patients' health care needs.

Born and bred in Wagga Wagga, Professor Jill White, Dean of Sydney Nursing School, said she was "particularly pleased to assist the Murrumbidgee Local Health District provide the best possible care for people and to provide educational opportunities for nurses and midwives in rural areas in an affordable and accessible way.

"Understanding the value of a primary health care approach and an improved interface with community health services will enable nurses to assist patients to make informed choices and actively participate in their plan of care," Professor White said.


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