Striving for emergency healthcare equality in remote communities

  • Sally West from James Cook University Centre for Rural & Remote Health, pictured in front of an artwork by The Women’s Engagement Group, Napranum.

Sally West from James Cook University Centre for Rural & Remote Health,
pictured in front of an artwork by The Women’s Engagement Group, Napranum.

Emergency Medicine Foundation
Kellie Furey,
Communications Manager

As hospital and healthcare services face critical issues, with systems and resources stretched to the limit, sustainable solutions underpinned by robust clinician-led research are more important than ever.

For emergency medicine clinicians in rural and remote areas, navigating logistical challenges and extreme distances, research that can help patients get the care they need closer to home is key.

One study is investigating how doctors and nurses in emergency and critical care settings can use nasal high-flow therapy to treat infants in remote areas suffering the respiratory illness bronchiolitis and reduce medical retrievals.

‘When children are sick, it impacts the entire family. Medical retrievals that take the young patient away from home and country compound an already distressing experience,’ said study lead, Sally West.

Sally is a clinical nurse and nursing academic with experience in paediatrics, emergency and infectious disease nursing, based in the Cape York Peninsula.

In addition to coordinating nursing education at the James Cook University Centre for Rural and Remote Health, Sally is a passionate researcher.

Driven to bridge the healthcare divide between regional and urban environments, Sally’s study is a collaboration involving groups from remote and tertiary settings with the common goal of improving access to treatment for rural and remote patients.

EMF Emergency Medicine FoundationThe study, supported by the Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF), is especially important for communities populated by Indigenous Australians, who have a higher incidence of bronchiolitis.

‘If a child with respiratory illness can access nasal high-flow therapy in a city, why shouldn’t children in the rural and remote setting receive the same treatment within the same timeframes?’ said Sally.

The role of emergency clinicians in safeguarding the wellbeing of communities is increasingly understood, and Sally acknowledges the resourcefulness that remote-based nurses and doctors need when undertaking research.

‘Few people understand the experience of the remote person better, this makes local clinicians critical in changing the way emergency medicine research is prioritised and conducted in remote contexts. They are best positioned to solve local health problems,’ said Sally.

‘There is a privilege of living within communities with a majority population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The remote nurse and doctor can focus emergency medicine research to meet the priorities of these populations,’ she said.

‘Understanding the experience means we can work together to improve wanted health outcomes.’

Continuing its focus on emergency care in regional, rural and remote areas, EMF has launched a new research program for frontline clinicians managing trauma patients, particularly road trauma.

EMF Research Manager Dr Angie Nguyen Vu said that clinicians are best placed to identify barriers to optimal emergency care for trauma patients. The program offers grants for clinician-led research into solutions that overcome those barriers, with support from the Motor Accident Insurance Commission.

A three-step application process has been offered to help clinicians managing heavy workloads, and a key component of the program is connecting applicants with research mentors and guides.

‘Our goal is to build research capacity for trauma and emergency healthcare clinicians in regional, rural and remote Queensland. Clinician-researchers will be offered support as they navigate the research path, to ensure that their ideas and voices are heard,’ said Angie.

Expressions of interest for the program are open until 19 November 2021. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to submit a full application by next February.

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