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New nurse navigators bring a cultural and collaborative approach to care - Fraser Coast

Complications following surgery in a Brisbane hospital led to Eli Waters man Paul Scully spending a stint in intensive care, experiencing delirium and with a long recovery journey ahead of him.

But the 72-year-old credits the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurse Navigator service for helping him and his wife Lynne get the support they need clinically, practically and emotionally, at a time when they didn’t know where to turn.

While the Nurse Navigator service has existed at Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service since 2017, it has expanded from an initial five navigators to 24 today, and includes a variety of new specialist care portfolios, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.

Paul was preparing to come home following his surgery when the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital team referred him to Fraser Coast Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurse Navigator Corsino (Ino) Bacatan.

“I couldn’t walk when I came home from hospital – I just had no strength in my legs. It made me feel really reliant on people, especially Lynne, and like I was putting too much pressure on her,” Paul said.

“Sometimes, as soon as you say you’re Aboriginal, everything changes and you get treated differently.

“But as soon as I was referred to Ino, everything seemed to happen really quickly. He started to get me mobile and more independent, and we got access to equipment that has really helped.”

Through networking with Paul’s GP and services such as the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health and WBHHS’s own Integrated Care Service chronic disease team, Ino was able to connect the couple with some important allied health support and arrange for equipment to be supplied and installed for a safer home environment.

This has included ramps, a wheelie walker, shower chair and a personal alarm, enabling Paul to move around more easily and confidently, do simple tasks in the kitchen, and water plants that he and Lynne grow together.

Ino also followed up on assessments through My Aged Care to give the couple longer-term support.

“Without him, I don’t think I would have improved this much. And at any time, if we have questions, we get answers,” Paul said.

Lynne said Ino’s assistance had also helped her immensely as Paul’s carer.

“He’s arranged for all our health visits to be at home, which has been great. Even going out to go to the doctor really tires Paul out, so it’s been really convenient to have people come to us,” she said.

“Without Ino, we would have felt as though we were on our own. He’s supported us, answered our questions and helped us to become more aware of our rights and services available to us, and encouraged us to speak up for ourselves.

“If we hadn’t had him to help us, I think I would’ve gone crazy.”

Ino said listening to and supporting the patient’s needs, as well as connecting them to support services, were important aspects of his role as a Nurse Navigator.

“What I usually look at is the patient’s goals. In Paul’s case, he was really concerned about his mobility and independence, so we’ve put some equipment in place to improve safety at home and boost his confidence moving around,” Ino said.

“As nurse navigators, it’s a key part of our role not just to support the patient and their carers to meet their individual needs, but also to collaborate with other health professionals for the best possible outcomes.

“We also play a strong advocacy role, whether this is ensuring they get the right care, at the right time, in the right place, or helping to foster more culturally sensitive care.”

WBHHS Chief executive Debbie Carroll said a specialised Nurse Navigator advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was an important step to ensuring they had better access to high-quality care that met their individual needs.

“Our partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and community representatives clearly identified the need for a nurse navigator who could work with local First Nations people,” Ms Carroll said.

“They act as a central point of communication for the patient, reducing fragmentation between different areas and helping the patient understand different aspects of their care.

“Nurse navigators help their clients to develop a care plan that addresses their overall wellbeing needs and circumstances, while collaborating with other clinicians and support services from both within and outside WBHHS.

“By doing this, they can help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers to achieve their health goals, return to a better quality of life and contribute to Closing the Gap.”

Last updated: 11 November 2020