Thursday, 16 May 2019

Community Health Nurses in MDCs

By Jessica Wooley

Community Health Nurses (CHNs) offer free and confidential health support to individuals who have experienced sexual assault, as well as their family members.

Sexual assault and family violence are linked to poor outcomes, such as poor mental and physical health. CHNs aim to minimise poor outcomes through education and support. They undertake an initial general health needs assessment of the client, providing health information, assisted referral and education for all health matters.


CHNs tackle a wide range of tasks, with no day presenting the same work. They adopt a social model of health in their work, where they acknowledge that a wide range of individual, social and environmental factors influence health and wellbeing. CHNs assist clients in navigating the health system. They may refer them to any allied health service, including: doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, dietitians and speech pathologists.

In their role, CHNs also undertake education and training for people of all ages. However, they primarily focus on young people by presenting programs on sexually transmitted infections and sexual health, as well as protective behaviours.

SECASA has three Community Health Nurses. Michelle Smithers is based at Seaford, while Pip Brennan and Sue Mills are based at Dandenong.

Community Health Nurse at the Seaford MDC, Michelle said that her role involves “thinking autonomously and on your feet.” The role involves being “trauma sensitive in everything we do” as well as “having a broad knowledge base” to assist all clients.

CHNs have an ongoing relationship with their clients, and rely on self-motivation to get their work done and assist those in need. They focus on assisting clients to move forward and provide support during this process.

On the 20th of February 2018, CHNs attended the MDC partners’ forum at the World Trade Centre in Melbourne. Michelle said that it was “good for us all to come together, as we are often isolated at our locations.”

CHNs frequently communicate through social media platforms, such as Skype, WhatsApp and Dropbox. This allows them to share useful information, articles and case studies with one another, as well as maintain a strong support system.

With referrals to CHNs increasing, the next financial year will see them branching out to start health-focussed groups. These groups may target people who have encountered sleep issues, weight issues and dietary issues. This initiative will assist the most people in the shortest amount of time.

To discuss referral, phone the Community Health Nurse:

Seaford: 8770 1065

Dandenong: 8769 2238

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