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Singing from the same song book

4 Apr 2022

A stalwart in the remote nursing policy space, Heather Keighley joined CRANAplus as Senior Policy Adviser in December 2021. She discusses policy issues affecting remote area nursing, collaborating with like-minded organisations, and putting remote nursing on the agenda.

2 At the Australian College of Nursing 2016 National Nursing Forum Speed Leading Session

At the Aus­tralian Col­lege of Nurs­ing 2016 Nation­al Nurs­ing Forum Speed Lead­ing Session.

Late last year, long­stand­ing CRANAplus Mem­ber and reg­u­lar Con­fer­ence Pan­el­list Heather Keigh­ley FACN AFACHSM CHM BN RM MIHM joined CRANAplus as Senior Pol­i­cy Advis­er, bring­ing her pas­sion and wide-rang­ing expe­ri­ence to CRANAplus’ advocacy.

She has worked as a Health Work­force Exec­u­tive for North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry PHN, Chief Nurs­ing and Mid­wifery Offi­cer for the NT, is the Chair of the Aus­tralian Col­lege of Nursing’s (ACN’s) Rur­al Nurs­ing and Mid­wifery Fac­ul­ty, a Board Direc­tor of ACN, and a Coun­cil and Board Mem­ber with the Nation­al Rur­al Health Alliance.

She’s also an ACN Fel­low, an Asso­ciate Fel­low for the Aus­tralian Col­lege of Health Ser­vice Man­agers, and a Research Fel­low at Flinders University.

What pol­i­cy issues are on Heather’s radar?

Num­ber one is the lack of an estab­lished path­way for nurs­es prepar­ing to go bush.

At the moment, we’re work­ing with the Deputy Nation­al Rur­al Health Com­mis­sion­er on a Nation­al Nurs­ing Frame­work around what remote and rur­al gen­er­al­ist nurs­ing looks like, and from there devel­op­ing a path­way,” Heather says.

1 2017 International Congress of Nurses in Barcelona with Qld CNMO and current Deputy Rural Health Commissioner Adjunct Professor Shelley Nowlan and then NZCNMO Dr Jane O Malley

2017 Inter­na­tion­al Con­gress of Nurs­es in Barcelona with Qld CNMO and cur­rent Deputy Rur­al Health Com­mis­sion­er Adjunct Pro­fes­sor Shel­ley Nowl­an and then NZC­N­MO Dr Jane O’Malley

Our goal is nation­al con­sis­ten­cy around remote and rur­al nurs­ing – what the prepa­ra­tion is, what’s required to effec­tive­ly and safe­ly work in a more autonomous way with the right train­ing, edu­ca­tion, think­ing and values.

CRANAplus does a fan­tas­tic job, but with­in the sys­tem, employ­ers don’t have suf­fi­cient senior, expe­ri­enced remote area nurs­es to pro­vide sup­port for clin­i­cians, and the lev­el of men­tor­ship and super­vi­sion required for ear­ly career tran­si­tions into remote.

Uni­ver­si­ties have pro­grams and edu­ca­tors and do a great job as well but are out­side the actu­al ser­vice deliv­ery system.

With­in the ser­vice deliv­ery sys­tem there needs to be more cog­ni­sance and recog­ni­tion of the sup­ports required for ear­ly career nurs­es to prac­tise safe­ly and sup­port Abo­rig­i­nal health improve­ment and Abo­rig­i­nal health staff.

With a high­er Indige­nous pop­u­la­tion in rur­al and remote areas, these issues can­not be sep­a­rat­ed from Clos­ing the Gap.”

3 With Professor Roianne West at the CATSI Na M 2021 Back to the Fire Conference in Darwin

With Pro­fes­sor Roianne West at the CATSI­NaM 2021 Back to the Fire Con­fer­ence in Darwin.

Heather also iden­ti­fies work­force avail­abil­i­ty as a key pol­i­cy con­sid­er­a­tion exac­er­bat­ed by the mobil­i­ty lim­i­ta­tions imposed by COVID-19.

How we address that short­age is a vexed ques­tion,” she says. 

How do we put sys­tems and process­es in place, so nurs­es are posi­tioned to deliv­er evi­dence-based best prac­tice in a remote con­text when there’s lim­it­ed staff and an increased work­load due to COVID, vac­ci­na­tions and pub­lic health measures? 

That issue is for employ­ers, but CRANAplus can still put its mind to the ques­tion, inso­far as it relates to pri­ori­ti­sa­tion, self-care and resilience.”

How is CRANAplus advo­cat­ing for RANs?

4 CRANA 2017 Conference in Broome with NT Senior Nurses

CRANAplus 2017 Con­fer­ence in Broome with NT Senior Nurses

CRANAplus’ advo­ca­cy includes rep­re­sen­ta­tion on steer­ing groups, com­mit­tees and boards, atten­dance at forums, meet­ings with politi­cians, and devel­op­ment of posi­tion papers, sub­mis­sions, and research (often relat­ed to inves­ti­ga­tions being con­duct­ed by Gov­ern­ment), Heather explains.

To give just one exam­ple, [CRANAplus CEO] Kather­ine and I are on the board of the Nation­al Rur­al Health Alliance,” Heather explains. We bring that remote and rur­al area nurs­ing lens to those meet­ings and make sure our issues our raised.

Part of my role is to be across cur­rent Gov­ern­ment posi­tions, pol­i­cy and stance, and the like­li­hood of suc­cess of pos­si­ble solu­tions,” Heather continues. 

It’s under­stand­ing par­tic­u­lar issues, exam­in­ing them, and doc­u­ment­ing them, so that when an oppor­tu­ni­ty aris­es, you’re ready with mate­r­i­al and ideas to start advo­cat­ing for what is required.”

7 L R Paul Stephenson CRAN Aplus Chair Heather Keighley

Left to right: Paul Stephen­son For­mer CRANAplus Chair, Heather Keigh­ley as Act­ing Chief Nurs­ing and Mid­wifery Offi­cer, NT Depart­ment of Health, Stu­art Mose­by and Tan­ja Hir­vo­nen Cen­tre for Remote Health

Thanks to her con­nec­tions in the remote health sec­tor, Heather is well posi­tioned to strength­en CRANAplus’ col­lab­o­ra­tions with like-mind­ed organisations.

CRANAplus will con­tin­ue to work in con­cert with the Aus­tralian Col­lege of Nurs­ing, Aus­tralian Pri­ma­ry Health Care Nurs­es Asso­ci­a­tion, the Aus­tralian Col­lege of Nurse Prac­ti­tion­ers, Aus­tralian Nurs­ing and Mid­wifery Fed­er­a­tion and oth­er lead­er­ship groups on pro­fes­sion­al pol­i­cy issues,” she says.

If we all sing from the same song sheet, we are more like­ly to be effec­tive, and there are many issues that chart across all those dif­fer­ent areas of nursing.

Often, you get around the pol­i­cy table and peo­ple aren’t talk­ing about nurs­ing. They’re talk­ing about health more gen­er­al­ly – about doc­tors, about allied health.

A bit like your Mum, nurs­es are often tak­en for grant­ed a lit­tle bit in the sys­tem. Yet we’re always there and we’ll always work hard and do every­thing we can.”

How­ev­er, col­lab­o­ra­tion between peak bod­ies is a cause for opti­mism, Heather says. Our joint efforts are set to place remote and rur­al nurs­ing on the agen­da more force­ful­ly than ever before.

She says in con­clu­sion: I have heard more advo­ca­cy and dis­cus­sion of the issues affect­ing remote and rur­al nurs­es in recent months than I’ve heard through­out the decades I’ve been in the remote health space.”

Find out more about CRANAplus’ Advo­ca­cy.