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Making an impact for refugees

February 07, 2020

Imagine arriving in a new country, with little to no paperwork about your previous health care and limited ability to speak the local language. This can often be the reality for newly arrived refugees to Australia.

Enter the Refugee Nurse Outreach Program. The program is funded by our PHN and is delivered across the region by Access Community Services Limited (ACSL) and Multicultural Development Australia (MDA) to support newly arrived refugees access the health care system.

Vanessa Aldridge is a Refugee Health Nurse based in Goodna who works to coordinate recently arrived refugees into the health system and support them to access health care.

“When a refugee first arrives, I meet with them to do an intake assessment and gather information so that they can be linked with a GP as close as possible to where they are living,” Ms Stacey said.

“We then work closely with the general practice to ensure they are refugee ready and culturally safe to provide the appropriate health care.

“We will then also look at making appropriate referrals to additional service such as the dentist, and child health and mental health services. We then follow up with a meeting every three months to assess how they are going and how independent they are.

“Along the way, I will also provide additional education around things like accessing emergency services and how to make appointments with their GP.”

Something that can make these tasks more difficult, is lack of previous health care documentation.

“Sometimes we get refugees who come from a medical background who are really confident accessing health, and others have never seen a doctor in their life and have only had one immunisation, so another thing we do is track their immunisations to date and their future ones,” Ms Stacey said.

In collaboration with ACS and MDA, the Refugee Nurse Outreach program is made possible through close collaboration between our PHN, Darling Downs and West Moreton Public Health Networks, Metro South health, TRAMS (Catholic Care), Mercy Community, Mater Hospital, GPs, allied health providers.

At any one time, Nicki can be assisting up to over 100 refugees, and the greatest reward - seeing the broader impact of the program for the refugee community.

“It’s when I see those clients who have gone through the program and I see them teaching these skills to their own friends and supporting their own community and being able to support other people when they move to the same area, they are really doing their job for us.”

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