Collaborating for children and mothers’ health

  • Child and Maternal Nurse, Karene and Pharmacist Manager, Katie 

Child and Maternal Nurse, Karene and Pharmacist Manager, Katie 

Max Millis
Communications Officer,
Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN

Children and families in rural communities often experience challenges in accessing the health system. Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN in Queensland is working to focus on The First 2000 Days framework and support the early development of children in rural and remote communities in local and targeted ways.

One innovative and collaborative partnership involves community-based service provider Your Pharmacy Chinchilla – located just over three hours west of Brisbane. They collaborate with the PHN through a Child and Maternal Health Nurse Drop-In Clinic.

The service is provided by experienced nurse Karene, who has worked as a midwife for 35 years and as a child health nurse for 15 years, in Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, as well as rurally in Mildura (Victoria) and Roma (Queensland) before moving to Chinchilla.

Upon moving to Chinchilla, Karene talked with Your Pharmacy Chinchilla’s Pharmacist Manager, Katie, who mentioned that she’d had a child health nurse, similar to one in a private practice, running a maternal health clinic. The clinic had been popular however, following the departure of the nurse, it was no longer in operation.

Conversations began between Katie and Karene, who was less interested in entering private practice or creating her own business and more passionate about providing a service for her new-found community. Karene was ultimately employed by Katie on a casual basis to implement the Child and Maternal Health Nurse Drop-In Clinic.

The service, which opens weekly during school terms, is run as a free drop-in clinic generously sponsored by the pharmacy.

Karene spoke on the nature of the clinic being a drop-in service:

“I think it’s really beneficial that it works as a drop-in clinic. Making appointments to see somebody is a bit difficult for a busy parent – particularly if they’ve got toddlers or a couple of kids.

 …The fact that it’s drop-in makes it easier for parents to navigate and they understand that they may have to wait 20 minutes because I’m with somebody.”

Karene uses the drop-ins with mothers as an opportunity to gain insight into the child’s health history and to provide education pertinent to the child’s age group.

The clinic operates within the Parents Evaluation Developmental Screening (PEDS), a well-established framework for decision-making which guides Karene’s scope of practice. This model recognises that a parent/carer is the best observer of a child. It gives insight into what the parent or carer is observing and the relevant domain for the child’s development.

Through the clinic, Karene provides support and advice on growth and development milestones, eye and ear health, lactation consults and more, with a focus on promoting breast feeding and immunisation.

“The main gap that we’re trying to fill is accessibility. [There’s] a bit of autonomy in that parents are up the street and can pop in for quick advice rather than a longer consultation they need to book for,” Karene said.

Another key benefit of operating out of the pharmacy is the opportunity for cross-collaboration, with the opportunity to share insights and opinions with the pharmacists as health professionals.

“It’s a strong partnership. I’ll often ask Katie or Savannah [pharmacists] for their opinion… it’s about knowledge sharing from a clinical perspective” said Karene.

Services like Karene and Your Pharmacy Chinchilla’s Child and Maternal Health Drop-In Clinic are strongly aligned with Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN’s key strategic priority of healthy partnerships: collaborating effectively, with a one-system mindset.

Such innovative partnerships play a major role in improving early life experiences for mothers, families, and children, serving to ultimately provide a more connected health system through provider collaboration.

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