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This Queensland Multicultural Month, Princess Alexandra Hospital’s (PAH) first Multicultural Nurse Navigator Kim Tran was breaking down barriers to healthcare for patients from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.
A former refugee from Vietnam, Ms Tran was dedicated to forming a bridge between mainstream healthcare and Brisbane’s different cultural communities.
“At PAH about 22 per cent of our patients come from CALD backgrounds,” she said.
“In my role I hope to teach mainstream health about cultural sensitivity and awareness but also teach the CALD community about the system, why we do things, and the benefits.”
Nurse Navigators are registered nurses who care for specific groups of patients with complex health conditions that require a high degree of comprehensive, clinical care.
Ms Tran was focussing on CALD patients who had a history of: discharging against medical advice, multiple presentations to the hospital, and failing to attend outpatient appointments.
Ms Tran said communication issues, fear of government institutions, and not understanding the healthcare system were often the biggest barriers to accessing appropriate healthcare.
“One of the biggest issues I see in regards to patients accessing services is that they’re not sure of the cost,” she said.
“They’ll discharge themselves from hospital because they’re worried about being charged thousands of dollars. Or they will delay seeking help in the first place because they can’t afford it.
“I’ve had patients who have been in Australia for years but were unaware of their health benefits and they are blown away by the services that are available.”
Ms Tran was based at PAH but spent 85 per cent of her time in the community visiting patients, helping to coordinate care.
“I find that seeing patients at home is so different to assessing them in hospital. In hospital they’re very unwell, there is a lot going on, lots of people want to do assessments and it can be very overwhelming for them especially if they have recently come to Australia as an asylum seeker or refugee,” she said.
“But at home you have that one-on-one time. You have that time to go through their care needs thoroughly in a safe space and do a big comprehensive nursing assessment.
“I can dedicate time to educating patients about when they should see a GP or dentist versus going to the hospital. I’ll also help them link-in with the right healthcare professionals.”
Ms Tran used a variety of methods to communicate with patients including que cards and interpreter services.
“From when I came to Australia, there are a lot more services available to help with communication including being able to book an interpreter for healthcare appointments,” she said.
“But there are certain things that transcend any language barrier. Like when I see my patients smile, or when they start to gain strength and some degree of health because their chronic illnesses are now being managed properly.”