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  • Online pharmacy training for Remote Area Nurses

    Author: Sharon Smith

Remote Area Nurses (RANs) have been described as ‘Specialist Generalists’; meaning that RANs need to know a little bit about a lot. RANs are recognised as forming the backbone of rural and remote primary care and provide a growing volume of services, especially in relation to chronic disease management, and practise at an advanced level in a collaborative manner often with limited or distant medical.

Dealing with patients with both chronic and acute conditions across the lifespan, often involving many generations of family, within the context of a culture and community that is not their own is only part of the job description. Often RANs take on other professions’ roles; finding themselves acting as the pharmacist, social worker, driver, cleaner, or even veterinarian.

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The Centre for Remote Health is a joint centre between Flinders University and Charles Darwin University that offers a number of courses catering to the RAN such as the Pharmacotherapeutics for Remote Area Nurses course, available online or as a two-day workshop in Alice Springs.

Course facilitator Tobias Spear describes the course as being suitable for current RANs and those looking to move into the area.

“While it is beneficial to have experience in primary health care, particularly in the remote context, it is not necessary. One of the positive and quite unexpected features that we have found with the conversation to online delivery is the significant proportion of participants who are undertaking the course in preparation for going remote.

“People are using the course as a first foray into the remote space, and as such the course contributes to the orientation to how health is delivered in the remote context. The course informs participants of the distinctive features of the remote context, including scope of practice, culturally safe and responsive care, and the relevant resources.”

The self-paced online course encourages clinical reasoning, knowledge development and use of recommended evidence based information sources. Participants benefit from the clarification of the parameters that dictate and regulate the scope of practice of health professionals in Australia, and learn the framework that enables RANs to determine whether an activity is within their individual scope of practice.

Originally developed some 15 years ago in response to a lack of training for RANs, the face-to-face pharmacotherapeutics course was adapted into an online version to give greater access to participants for a range of budgets and locations. The course is continually updated incorporating participants’ feedback to ensure that it is current and meeting the needs to participants and stakeholders.

The pharmacotherapeutics course covers 6 clinical modules, including hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes, respiratory disease (asthma and COPD), mental health (depression and psychosis), antibiotic use and pain management. It assists participants in developing clinical reasoning to ensure safe and appropriate medicines use.

“Cultural safety is an important component of the pharmacotherapeutics course. The content, activities and assessments are guided by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Curriculum Framework and have been reviewed by Aboriginal colleagues. The course includes a section on cultural safety and is delivered in a way that demonstrates culturally safe and responsive practice,” says Tobias.

Upon completion of the course participants are able to include up to 30 hours of self-directed learning, assessments and online activities in their CPD record with the certificate of completion as evidence of the undertaking. The course is part of a suite offered by the Remote Area Nursing stream which also includes short courses, workshops and postgraduate qualifications in remote and Indigenous health through Flinders University.


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Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith writes freelance articles as a medical, science and technology specialist. She is researching health journalism at Griffith University and lives mostly on Twitter @smsmithwriter (and would love to hear from you).