21 December 2022

'Just another day': nurses ready to treat this holiday season's mishaps

| Lottie Twyford
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Nurse practitioners like Tim Keun will work through the silly season to keep everyone safe and well. Photo: CHS.

Christmas Day mishaps, unlike the lunch and complicated Secret Santa arrangements, are never planned.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t happen.

Nurse practitioner Tim Keun has seen it all. He says the Silly Season is just like any other at the Territory’s Walk-in Centres.

“We’re normally busier on Christmas afternoon after people have taken the kid’s new toys out to play with – they might have a mishap with a new scooter, for example, as they try to relive their childhood,” Mr Keun said.

“Some years, we have a very quiet day and then a bigger day on Boxing Day when people are out in the sun.

“It is quite dependent on the weather and whether people are staying in Canberra or not.”

With another bumper pollen season upon us, hayfever and allergies are other big-ticket items that staff at the Walk-in Centres are used to seeing at this time of year.

“Along with an increase in normal summertime injuries or ailments like hayfever or asthma and broken bones from people getting out and about, there’s also COVID-19 in the background this year,” he explained.

Dickson walk-in centre

Walk-in centres are open from 7:30 am to 10 pm across the ACT. Photo: Region.

There are five Walk-in Centres across the ACT: Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Dickson, Weston and Gungahlin. These are open from 7:30 am to 10 pm for the entirety of the festive season.

There’s also a COVID-19 clinic in Weston Creek.

Walk-in Centres provide free health care for non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses to anyone over one year of age.

The ACT’s emergency departments are also open to treating more serious injuries or ailments.

Treatment at each of the walk-in centres is nurse-led.

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Nurse practitioners like Mr Keun can diagnose and manage illnesses, prescribe medicines, request testing, such as blood tests and x-rays, and refer patients to other health professionals.

Mr Keun said the facilities are the right place to go for what’s called ‘episodic’ care for minor injuries and ailments. That means anyone who needs care for a chronic or ongoing health problem would be better served by visiting their GP.

That includes care for issues like ongoing asthma or diabetes, Mr Keun explained.

“We’re more than capable of managing conditions like tonsilitis, ear infections, broken limbs, lacerations – those sorts of things.”

Two sorts of nurses – nurse practitioners and advanced practice nurses – staff the centres.

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All nurse practitioners are experienced and endorsed. Mr Keun, for example, had just completed his Masters.

“[We] sort of complement the role of a general practitioner in the community,” he said.

“It’s not about taking work away from one or the other but working with GPs to provide the best care for patients.

“For example, we always try to advocate for a patient to try and return to their GP after a visit to a Walk-in Centre.”

Visit the Canberra Health services website for current opening hours and waiting times.

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