Mental health support available for rural frontline nurses

17 Sep 2020

Health pro­fes­sion­als in drought and bush­fire-affect­ed rur­al com­mu­ni­ties have access to extra resources to help them deal with the men­tal health fall­out from these events.

CRANAplus, the peak pro­fes­sion­al body for Australia’s remote and iso­lat­ed health work­force, has received Com­mon­wealth fund­ing to pro­vide a suite of webi­na­rs, pod­casts, and tai­lor-made work­shops for those work­ing on the front­line, to keep them­selves and their com­mu­ni­ties resilient. 

Fed­er­al Region­al Health Min­is­ter, Mark Coul­ton said nurs­es are the lifeblood of rur­al areas, respond­ing to com­plex health needs away from major hos­pi­tals and need­ed sup­port to car­ry out this vital role. 

We can­not over­state the impor­tant role our remote nurs­ing work­force has in help­ing their local com­mu­ni­ties get through these tough times,” Min­is­ter Coul­ton said. 

The CRANAplus men­tal health train­ing work­shops are unique and tai­lored to the spe­cif­ic needs of clin­i­cians in a par­tic­u­lar com­mu­ni­ty to help build long-term resilience in our rur­al and remote health workforce. 

With the sum­mer months fast approach­ing, it is impor­tant to pre­pare for the upcom­ing bush­fire sea­son by ensur­ing our health pro­fes­sion­als are well sup­port­ed to respond and help rur­al com­mu­ni­ties who might face addi­tion­al chal­lenges in the months ahead.” 

Min­is­ter Coul­ton said Nurs­ing in the Com­mu­ni­ty Week (1420 Sep­tem­ber) pro­vid­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to thank all rur­al and remote nurs­es who con­tin­u­ous­ly put their heart and soul into car­ing for com­mu­ni­ties, espe­cial­ly this year as we face the addi­tion­al chal­lenge of man­ag­ing COVID-19

I want to thank all the nurs­es who often go above and beyond the call of duty to care for rur­al and remote com­mu­ni­ties, this year has already been par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing for rur­al Aus­tralia,” Min­is­ter Coul­ton said. 

CRANAplus CEO, Kather­ine Isbis­ter said many rur­al com­mu­ni­ties have dealt with years of drought, com­pound­ed by last summer’s dev­as­tat­ing bush­fires and now COVID-19

Our pri­ma­ry health clin­i­cians are start­ing to see an increase in com­plex, trau­ma-relat­ed men­tal health pre­sen­ta­tions linked to these events, and we need to sup­port them to con­tin­ue car­ing for their com­mu­ni­ties,” Ms Isbis­ter said. 

In many cas­es, our rur­al and remote health pro­fes­sion­als have been through the same trau­mas and chal­lenges as their patients and they haven’t had a break to be able to look after their own wellbeing” 

CRANAplus Psy­chol­o­gist, Cath Walk­er said the free resources were devel­oped in con­junc­tion with experts in the field of dis­as­ter recov­ery and men­tal health, and can be accessed via the CRANAplus website. 

Ms Walk­er said con­sul­ta­tions with clin­i­cians in remote and rur­al com­mu­ni­ties have led to train­ing con­tent being devel­oped across four key areas: 

  • Effects of dis­as­ter, long term stress, com­mon reac­tions and help­ful responses. 
  • Poten­tial for sec­ondary trau­ma and burnout in health pro­fes­sion­als and oth­er carers. 
  • Resilience and self-care strate­gies to reduce the poten­tial long-term effect on per­son­al health and wellbeing. 
  • Increas­ing con­fi­dence with con­ver­sa­tion about men­tal health using basic lis­ten­ing, coun­selling and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills.

The pro­longed dis­as­ter-relat­ed stress being expe­ri­enced by some of our rur­al and remote com­mu­ni­ties is plac­ing sig­nif­i­cant pres­sure on iso­lat­ed clin­i­cians, who may not have had men­tal health train­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly when com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers are unable to trav­el to access spe­cial­ist men­tal health care, so it’s vital to pro­vide tools to help the helpers,” Ms Walk­er said. 

Min­is­ter Coul­ton said the Fed­er­al Government’s invest­ment totalled more than $13 mil­lion over three years to CRANAplus to pro­vide remote health pro­fes­sion­als, includ­ing com­mu­ni­ty nurs­es, with access to train­ing, pro­fes­sion­al ser­vices and men­tal health support. 

This builds on exist­ing sup­port avail­able to pro­vide trau­ma-informed care and men­tal health first aid train­ing to front­line health­care and emer­gency work­ers, under the Aus­tralian Government’s $76 mil­lion Sup­port­ing the Men­tal Health of Aus­tralians Affect­ed by Bush­fires pack­age.

Health pro­fes­sion­als in areas affect­ed by drought and/​or bush­fires inter­est­ed in a hav­ing a local men­tal health train­ing work­shop can con­tact Nation­al Project Man­ag­er Kristy Hill at kristy@​crana.​org.​au or vis­it crana​.org​.au to access the free resources. 

This ini­tia­tive com­ple­ments our exist­ing CRANAplus Bush Sup­port Ser­vices 24/7 toll-free sup­port line, 1800 805 391, for rur­al and remote health pro­fes­sion­als and their fam­i­lies,” Ms Isbis­ter said. 

Media con­tacts: Min­is­ter Coul­ton: Steph Nicholls 0417 314 920 | CRANAplus: Denise Wilt­shire 07 4047 6400 or 0419 359 325