Tracey also found that women who had the support of a breast care nurse reported significantly lower unmet needs and a higher sense of self-efficacy compared to women who did not access a breast care nurse.
“Just having that one person who they can refer to and rely on really helps to decrease their unmet needs,” she says.
“To have that central person also increases their belief in themselves and their ability to look after themselves. I could see all along while doing the research that breast care nurses were really valued by the women who they cared for.”
Dr Tracey Ahern
Tracey praises the McGrath Foundation for their work in raising money to fund breast care nurses around Australia. She says the value that breast care nurses bring to women should be replicated so that other patients, such as those suffering from other forms of cancer, can benefit.
“We’re doing well with breast cancer and we do have these nurses for support,” Tracey says. “I do feel these models of care can be applied to other people with cancer who don’t have access to these models of support.”
Support should not be a one-way street and Tracey is mindful of the need to ensure breast care nurses, specifically those working in geographically isolated areas, are cared for in what can be a difficult and isolating role.
“Telehealth services could be used by breast care nurses when they are in remote areas to link them to other health professionals,” she says. “They might at times feel isolated in their role, so it’s important they have the support of other breast care nurses because the work they do is really important.”
Tracey’s passion for rural and remote healthcare will fuel her next study, which will focus on the surveillance of woman who are identified as being at a high risk of breast cancer in rural and remote areas. Driving her to continue researching is the desire to make a difference on the ground for health professionals.
“I hope that some of the research I’ve done can help improve practice and improve outcomes,” she says. “I keep going just knowing even the small things can help.”