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Connecting the unconnected: rural nurses taking matters into their own hands

“We felt that we deal with anxious upset patients on a daily basis. And we felt that our nurse peers didn’t understand the magnitude of the work that we do. We probably felt a bit undervalued,” says Dr Pamela Ellem.

Ellem has recently developed a valued model of professional peer support, referred to as ‘Connecting the Unconnected’ to help the most isolated specialist breast care nurses and, as a breast care nurse herself, acutely felt the need for support.

“These nurses, who are based across an area of 420,000 square kilometres, are dealing with aggrieved, anxious and upset patients, yet they lacked a way of connecting for professional peer support,” Ellem said.

Together with eight other isolated nurses, Ellem developed the model, which involved face-to-face meetings, teleconferencing, education and, most importantly, listening and support.

This study is a great example of nurses seeing a problem and attempting to fix it themselves, thus improving health outcomes for their patients.

“The study has also created enormous stability in the workforce as we’ve only had one change of personnel across the past four years.

“These nurses are now keen to become researchers to improve their roles. We do need researchers at the bedside so it’s so fantastic that they have realised the worth of this study,” Ellem said.

Nursing Review spoke with Ellem to hear more about the initiative.

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