Press "Enter" to skip to content

Meet Australia’s first refugee health nurse navigator

Heather Roberts, Australia's first Refugee Health Nurse Navigator
Heather Roberts, Australia’s first Refugee Health Nurse Navigator

What is a nurse navigator?

A nurse navigator is a highly experienced nurse/ midwife that has an in-depth understanding of the health system and often has a content knowledge expert in an area of speciality (e.g. refugee health).

The navigator works with the consumer, their families, care providers and other agencies to navigate the health care system including GPs, community health and other primary care providers, and hospital and specialist health services, ensuring equity and access to appropriate and timely care.

What background do you bring to the role?

I have worked for Queensland Health for (too many years to count) in many and varied speciality arenas and spaces. From midwifery, rural and remote, Emergency, Hospital in the Home, Sexual Health, Immunisations, Forensic Nursing, and for the past 10 years in Refugee Health. I have a love of adventure which has lead me into the field of leading treks/ hikes and trek medic work around the globe as well as partaking in the addictive sport of adventure racing. Through these passions I have had the most amazing opportunity to see many parts of the world that most don’t get to see. This has fuelled my purpose of caring for those that “don’t fit” the system. I believe all people have the basic right to health care and equity and access is the key to obtaining such.

Toowoomba is the only hospital with a refugee nurse navigator – what are the challenges in Toowoomba that have sparked the creation of this role?

Toowoomba is quite unique in that it has accepted refugees for many years and over time has been recognised as a “Welcome City”. Toowoomba has settled people of many different cultural backgrounds over this time – Sudanese, Congolese, Eritrean, Afghan women and children at risk and of late, the Syrian and Iraq Yazidi cohort. Due to the significant increase in arrival numbers and complexities of our most recent cultural group, Toowoomba has been settling higher numbers than Brisbane. It was identified that there was a need to assist clients and services to navigate the health care system to ensure clients were accessing appropriate and timely care.

Some of the challenges in why this position was developed were in relation to equity and access, cultural differences, staff and community attitudes, health systems/processes, lack of interpreting services, new cultural dynamics, low literacy levels with a predominantly verbal “not written” dialect of Kurdish Kumanji. Hence through the successful application to the EB10 Nurse and Midwifery Innovation fund from the Chief Nursing and Midwifery office, the Nurse Navigator – Refugee Health project role came about. This is a 12 month project to promote capacity within the community and HHS to care for refugees. 

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply