For career nurse Anne Douglas, patience is the key to making her patients better.
As manager of Canberra’s latest nurse-led walk-in centre at Dickson, Anne has been at the frontline of health services for almost 40 years in Canberra and is looking forward to opening the doors to the public next Wednesday (26 August).
Canberra’s fifth walk-in centre will be co-located in the Community Health Centre at the Dickson Group Centre and has been built at a cost of $9.8 million.
Anne told Region Media she has been busy making sure everything has a home in her new ‘home away from home’ and for the team of nurses she will oversee.
“I’m really excited to be working with this team of nurses. They’re incredibly well prepared for the role. Our nurse practitioners are all educated at Masters level and the advanced practice nurses have years of clinical experience,” Anne says.
Anne has just completed a stint as the nurse manager at Canberra’s first COVID-19 drive-through testing centre at EPIC, as well as having provided care to people in quarantine who returned to Canberra from overseas.
Before the doors open to the new walk-in centre, all nurses have all completed a rigorous training program to prepare them for work on medicine’s frontline.
“When our nurses first come to the walk-in centre, they’ve already spent three weeks being shadowed by an experienced clinician,” Anne says.
“At the end of that, they have to sit an exam with a pretend patient and demonstrate they can do the proper assessment and make a good clinical judgment and follow the treatment protocols and standing orders.
“This training is absolutely vital because patients will come in with anything from issues with sexual health, muscular-skeletal and respiratory issues to people requiring an abdominal assessment or ear, nose and throat assessments to learning how to suture or assess someone’s mental health.”
Anne says the real learnings start on the job, where there has been a marked increase in the number of Canberrans presenting at walk-in centres at Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Gungahlin and Weston Creek.
“We can see from the increase in the number of people accessing the walk-in centres that it’s a very popular model in the ACT. In 2019, there were 67,766 patients across all the walk-in centres, and that was an increase of about 20,000 people from the previous year.
“People are obviously finding the service really great and are wanting to use it,” Anne says.
“One of the aspects of this model is to relieve some of the pressure on our emergency departments for the treatment of people with level four and five category presentations.”
This may include foreign objects in the eye, a sprained ankle, fractures, migraines, earaches and other conditions that are non-urgent or that may be part of a chronic problem.
But Anne says she has seen it all after starting as a registered nurse at 19 years of age at the Royal Canberra Hospital and Woden Valley Hospital. She has worked her entire career in Canberra, including stints in urology and neurosurgery, community health and the emergency department at Calvary Hospital.
But being able to help patients and working with other nurses is what keeps her going.
“I highly value my profession and I feel really proud to be a nurse,” says Anne. “I really value being able to help people when they’re not feeling well. The best experience is when somebody comes in and something is wrong and I am going to be able to help them with that and tell that person they are going to feel better.”
The inner-north walk-in centre at Dickson will be open from 26 August, seven days a week from 7:30 am to 10:00 pm.