September 14, 2020

Cathy and Judy: a tale of two community nurses

This week is Nursing in the Community Week, celebrating those who work in a wide range of areas outside of hospital settings. To highlight this week, Northern Health will focus on some of our amazing staff and services that support our patients in the northern community and give special meaning to the phrase “frontline heroes”.

Cathy Edgar, DipApp (Nursing), GradDip Neuroscience, MNS, PhD, works in our Chronic Wound Service Centre at Bundoora Centre and operates an In-Reach Program on Thursday and Friday. Cathy has been a nurse for 47 years. Judy Constantine has been an enrolled nurse for just over ten years, six of those in the Post-Acute Care service, also at our Bundoora Centre.

Although they work in different departments, Judy says they have a special bond, describing Cathy as her mentor. Judy explains she has just commenced studies to qualify as a Registered Nurse, Division One, and that Cathy, “with all her experience is being very helpful and guiding me.”

The other special bond that Cathy and Judy have is their passion for nursing in the community.

“The work community nurses do is not unlike the work of nurses in a ward; it includes highly technical procedures such as those done by nurses in our Wound Clinic and medication management and clinical nursing care in Post-Acute Care ,” says Johanna Hayes, Operations Director Community Programs.

“Working in someone’s own home, with their family or supports around them helps remind us that our patients are people, members of their own community, and that we need to work with them to meet their goals,”says Anne Marie Fabri, Associate Director Community Programs.

Cathy is clear, “If we don’t work with the patient and with their family, we won’t get anywhere – because it’s their body. We are very oriented towards the patient-centred model.”

Judy says, “When we work in the community, we are working not only with the patient, but with their families as well. So when we set up care, we always need to involve them.”

Continuity of care is a big factor in the service they provide. “When the patient goes home we are often that first point of call. We are always ready to listen to the family and strive to provide that continuity of care, as best as we can,” says Judy.

“Nursing in the acute sector is lifesaving stuff. When they come to us, it is more restorative care with the support we have – and we have heaps,” says Cathy.

Julie Tran, Registered Nurse Care Coordinator for HARP (which we shall hear more about later in the week) says, “The barriers to building rapport in the acute hospital setting have less impact in the community, as we are now in their environment and we have more time to listen to their needs.”

As Cathy puts it, “When you get to know your patient, you know exactly what colour of tiles they have in their bathroom!”

“We know them very well; we know their idiosyncrasies- and we are interested because that is what connects us all!”

Judy says Northern Health has done something special within the Department of Post-Acute Care, by providing an in-house nursing service that helps ensure continuity of care.

“It’s working well as, if nurses have any concerns, they can read up on the same notes and follow up with the doctors, whoever they need to ensure they can provide that care out there in the community,” says Judy.

Cathy on her part is pleased that, “When we visit homes or aged care facilities, we have the benefit of ringing our In-Reach team, which includes a geriatrician and two nurses. They will come in and the doctor will assess the patient right away and this will happen even in the home.”

The current pandemic has further underlined the importance of nursing in the community.

Says Anne Marie, “Often we are caring for people who are socially isolated and vulnerable, and our care is what makes the difference.”

Cathy says the challenge for the older people and the people they visit in aged care facilities is the separation from family.

“Because we deal with them for such a long time, we end up being a bit like their family. They may not see their daughter, but they will see us instead,” says Cathy.