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You don’t know what you don’t know

1 Jun 2021

Nurse Practitioner Lynette Byers, now in her third term on the CRANAplus Board, has seen many changes in the past nine years. Here she talks about her passion for education.

Lyn Byers, Nurse Prac­ti­tion­er, remote area nurse, mid­wife and men­tal health nurse, is pas­sion­ate about the edu­ca­tion­al resources offered by CRANAplus, stress­ing that it is an impor­tant plat­form for clin­i­cians in rur­al and par­tic­u­lar­ly remote areas to have access to.

The resources are now there so that when clin­i­cians go remote, they have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do the ground­work before they go,” she says. For old­er nurs­es, it’s impor­tant to remain curi­ous – it’s so easy to slip into habits – and CRANAplus pro­vides not only face to face emer­gency cours­es, but also webi­na­rs and online updates to keep mem­bers curi­ous and inter­est­ed in upskilling. Patients out there deserve the best pos­si­ble care.”

Lyn prac­tices this phi­los­o­phy. Dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, I realised I could learn more about infec­tious dis­eases: how to man­age things, learn about sup­ports around to help, and ways we can learn to put our knowl­edge into practice.

You don’t know what you don’t know,” says Lyn. Clin­i­cans go out into remote and dis­cov­er they may be expert in their sphere – but out there, they realise there are gaps in their knowl­edge. The CRANAplus Remote Area Nurs­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion helps nurs­es to pin­point those gaps.

I believe, at the very least, peo­ple going remote should do the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion we offer. They can mea­sure their knowl­edge against the frame­work and see the stan­dards required. They are assessed by remote peers and a bonus is that the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion also goes towards their pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment points.”

The online facil­i­ties for edu­ca­tion has proved extreme­ly use­ful, says Lyn. Peo­ple have very busy lives. I know peo­ple miss the per­son­al con­tact and inter­ac­tion and since our edu­ca­tion cours­es returned to face-to-face work­shops, there’s been a huge demand. But the online facil­i­ties are cru­cial for many, offer­ing such resources as webi­na­rs and self-paced learning.

I sug­gest to every­one in remote, when you have down time, and in the remote set­ting maybe not a lot of things to do, use that down time, at least some of it, for your­self, for your education.

CRANAplus has cer­tain­ly grown from its grass­roots begin­nings,” says Lyn, but still retains the strengths of its origins.

In my time on the Board, I’ve seen the organ­i­sa­tion become more polit­i­cal­ly pow­er­ful. Peo­ple in Can­ber­ra ini­ti­ate con­tact, which is what we want. And to meet the needs of the mem­bers, we have had to become much more sophis­ti­cat­ed, and pay much more atten­tion to governance.”

Lyn’s work on the Board has also brought into focus for her the valu­able work of Bush Sup­port Ser­vices and Pro­fes­sion­al Services.

Bush Sup­port Ser­vices (BSS) also offers a vari­ety of access options, help­ing us to man­age our life-work bal­ance. Remote is a very stress­ful area to work in and peo­ple absolute­ly need the sup­port and encour­age­ment that BSS offers.

The advo­ca­cy work with gov­ern­ment and the sub­mis­sions regard­ing pol­i­cy writ­ten by Pro­fes­sion­al Ser­vices can fly under the radar, but it’s impor­tant work – and I’d sug­gest to mem­bers that they may like to con­sid­er, for exam­ple, con­tribut­ing to sub­mis­sions when the calls go out.”

Lyn, based in Alice Springs, is cur­rent­ly the clin­i­cal nurse con­sul­tant at Nganam­pa Health Coun­cil, work­ing in the APY Lands in SA. Her patch stretch­es from the Stu­art High­way to the WA border.

Peo­ple have dif­fer­ent arrange­ments that suit them,” she says. Some go remote for extend­ed peri­ods, oth­ers do short-term relief work.

For every­one, it’s impor­tant to recog­nise that you can become desen­si­tised to nor­mal­i­ty. You can’t just pop down the road for a cof­fee or to get your hair­cut. You need to remem­ber the rea­son for being in the remote set­ting is to work. You are in the minor­i­ty, and you need to leave that set­ting reg­u­lar­ly to refresh and rejuvenate.” 

In addi­tion to her job and Board work, Lyn is the chair of the edi­to­r­i­al com­mit­tee for the Remote Pri­ma­ry Health Care Man­u­als, cur­rent­ly under review. New edi­tions are planned for pub­li­ca­tion in late 2022.

These man­u­als are cru­cial for the care of patients in remote com­mu­ni­ties, health work­ers couldn’t oper­ate with­out them,” says Lyn. They are peri­od­i­cal­ly reviewed and assessed by RANs to make sure the guide­lines are prac­ti­cal and use­able. They pro­vide guid­ance on clin­i­cal care in the remote con­text from women’s busi­ness to health pro­mo­tion and screen­ing, from chron­ic dis­ease to sex­u­al health, and how-to pro­ce­dures for every imag­in­able med­ical sit­u­a­tion. Impor­tant­ly they guide prac­ti­tion­ers in assess­ing a med­ical sit­u­a­tion such as abdom­i­nal pain and fever in chil­dren, and then how to man­age and com­mu­ni­cate the sit­u­a­tion to others.