Photo: Clocking up the kilometres: Central West Hospital and Health Service Nurse Navigator Simone Champion.

Often, the health system can be a complex and challenging system for people to navigate.

This can become even harder when poor health occurs or when having to leave home for care is required.

It can make balancing the demands of everyday life even more overwhelming.

However, help is available through the Central West Hospital and Health Service’s Nurse Navigator program.

Nurse Navigators are highly experienced Registered Nurses who have a tremendous level of knowledge and understanding of clinical care and how the health system functions.

Longreach-based Nurse Navigator Simone Champion said Central West Health had five Nurse Navigators based in Longreach, Blackall, Barcaldine and Winton.

From these bases, they deliver services throughout the region, even out to the Northern Territory border.

“Our role as Nurse Navigators is to work with our patients and their carers to assist them with their health needs and guide them through the system as easily as possible,’’ she said.

Ms Champion supports about 30 patients through the health system each month.

She can visit them in their homes or at the various healthcare facilities.

Some of the nurse navigators in the Central West region can travel up to 1300 km a week visiting patients from their base hub.

“We don’t just work within the hospital system – we link in closely with all health care providers in our areas. Including doctors, other nurses, physiotherapists, dietitians and other community care providers,’’ Ms Champion said.

“Nurse Navigators form very close working relationships with our clients and base the direction of our care on what the patients and carers want.

“We also coordinate and guide patients to services at the right place, at the right time, with the right healthcare professional.

“Location is a key element in helping clients with complex care needs as Nurse Navigators support their clients and often accompany them – with patient consent – to appointments to their local health facility.

“Nurse navigators are familiar with the bigger hospital systems and can plan and coordinate patients’ needs if they are required to travel away for care.

“The main two attractions which drew me to the Nurse Navigator position were, firstly, the opportunity to work as a conduit for patients and their families in an educational and supportive manner and, secondly, to work in the Central West region.

“Often, rural and remote patients are confounded by the tyranny of distance and find going away for more complex health services, which may not be offered here, is overwhelming and can cause them to become stressed or even forego treatment.

“Nurse navigators smooth these situations and complete ground work which promotes the individual needs of patients and their families, thereby promoting uptake in engagement of services and ultimately improving health outcomes for individuals.

“It is a tremendous relief for some patients to have such a strong support at every stage of their care, whereby they feel fully supported and informed.

“Each month, within the  Central West, the Nurse Navigators deliver on average 140 occasions of service, which include face to face appointments, telephone catch-ups, coordinating telehealth appointments, referrals to other services and assessing patients for health literacy.’’

Ms Champion said currently there were 100 Central West consumers accessing Nurse Navigator services across the region.

Queensland Health has added 400 nurse navigators to the state’s public hospital and health services over the past four years, including the five positions in the Central West.