Nowra’s Ros Rolleston MACN has been a registered nurse for 40 years, with six years of clinical experience in general practice and 10 years working in education and facilitating person-centred care. She is currently a tutor in undergraduate nursing and coordinates a private evidenced-based Facebook Group for general practice nurses and their health professional colleagues interested or working in Primary health care (PHC). She also works with groups on projects related to general practice and organisations such as The Australian College of Nursing in advocating for general practice nursing.
We caught up with Ros to discuss the key role general practice nurses are playing on the frontline of COVID-19, how they have been impacted by the pandemic and the best way they can be supported by the broader community during this difficult time.
What role are general practice nurses playing in protecting their local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic?
General practices have been implementing heightened infection prevention processes, physical distancing measures and shifting to telehealth consults to adjust their services during COVID-19. Whilst these changes initially caused some chaos, this has now settled. General practice nurses (GPNs) are experts in care planning, care coordination and health promotion. Where possible, GPNs are educating people in infection prevention, strategies to reduce anxiety related to COVID-19, self-management during isolation, ensuring people have access to nutritious food and staying connected with family, friends and health professionals.
More broadly, PHC nurses are continuing to care for the elderly in aged care facilities, those who are in correctional facilities and caring for people in their homes. PHC is the sector that will continue to care for people who are not hospitalised, keeping them well and in their homes, which is vital during COVID-19.
As Australia’s vaccination champions, nurses are also ensuring all immunisation programs continue including influenza, early childhood, pneumococcal and at-risk populations, by implementing innovative models of vaccine delivery to ensure physical distancing and infection prevention measures are in place to protect the community. We must maintain our immunisation rates to prevent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases during this time.
How has COVID-19 impacted general practice settings?
We are hearing of GPN’s hours being reduced or cut entirely and GPNs who are busier than ever before. These variances are creating a heightened level of anxiety among GPNs, many of whom work on casual contracts. While there have been changes to funding for GPs, there have been no increases in direct funding for GPNs and opportunities for telehealth have only just become available People in the community have developed trusting relationships with their GPNs and these people will benefit greatly from continuing contact. However, federal policy is not supporting this need. GPNs want to work with their practice populations to identify those at risk and work with them to maintain health and wellness but this is only occurring in some places as a result of the inadequate funding.
How best can the community support GPNs during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The best way the community can support GPNs during this time is to continue to reach out to them and not wait until something goes wrong. It is imperative that people at risk of COVID-19 remain in their homes and their health care needs continue to be met as evidence informs us that the health of people with long term conditions deteriorates during pandemics.
What message you would like to share with other nurses and health care workers on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic?
All nurses in every setting are on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all in this together! Please remember to thank your local supermarket staff, they are truly at the front line of COVID-19 without personal protective equipment yet turn up for work every day.
Would you like to be interviewed for ACN’s NurseClick blog on your COVID-19 experiences? If so, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of our team will be in touch.