Breast care nurses who support women in rural and regional communities will soon be more connected through a program called Connecting the Connected.
Geographical isolation has always been an additional challenge for women fighting breast cancer, but little research has been done on models of professional support that are both valued and sustainable for the specialist breast care nurses (SBCN) in their complex and challenging roles.
A study conducted by Dr Pammie Ellem has addressed this gap in practice and research around the support for SBCNs working in regional, rural, and remote areas, and the program has been successfully trialled in south west Queensland over a three year period.
Dr Ellem said as someone who had previously lived and worked as a care nurse in the south west region, she loved her role but there came a time when "you need to empty your cup".
"The professional challenges were that you couldn't just sit down face-to-face with a colleague that immediately understood your role; geographically you were isolated from that niche professional," she said.
"We felt we all worked in isolation, and we would all be very much more productive and create a better care service for our patients if we worked collaboratively.
"We had a real desire to do that, but we weren't given the mechanisms from employment bodies to do that naturally."
Dr Ellem said the Connecting the Connected program, while basic, would be a model of support based on a meeting process.
"We identified that we needed regular face-to-face contact, whether that is face-to-face or via video conference," she said.
"This way, nurses from the likes of Charleville, St George and Roma can join in on a regular basis.
"We have also introduced a quarterly face-to-face meeting so that the far-distance nurses can choose to come to that meeting as well."
Dr Ellem's research was funded by the Breast and Prostate Cancer Association of Queensland and they will facilitate the rollout of the program in 2019.
BPCAQ secretary Tracey Plumridge said the association was looking to replicate the model across the state, in the form of nurse hubs.
"It's a nice way for us to continue to support the rural and regional nurses by giving them these opportunities so they go back to their communities and better support the patients," she said.
The voluntary organisation has been responsible for establishing 10 rural breast care nurses across the state.
The positions are created through fundraising in the local communities, with permanent funding taken over by Queensland Health after several years.