MHPN connects rural practitioners in the Kimberley

16 October 2017  Connect

Four and a half years ago, psychologist Nicole Jeffery-Dawes moved from Melbourne to Kununurra to work with remote communities across the Kimberley.  Nicole was a regular MHPN network member in Melbourne and found that although a MHPN network existed in Broome, there wasn’t one 1000 kilometres away in Kununurra.  With MHPN’s support, Nicole began a new East Kimberley MHPN Network which now connects practitioners working in an area the size of Victoria.

In the beginning, the network’s location restricted attendance because it was too far for practitioners working in some areas of the Kimberley to travel to Kununurra.    Nicole wanted to include all practitioners working in the region, so she contacted WA Health and the network applied to use Telehealth.  Telehealth is an online platform which connects health practitioners over distance.  Telehealth’s platform allows practitioners from Kalumburu to Balgo and everywhere in between to log in and participate online. 

Nicole opens the Telehealth platform five minutes before the network meeting begins, and practitioners across the Kimberley log in and watch an MHPN webinar together.  All MHPN webinars feature an expert panel and explore topics through an interdisciplinary collaborative care approach and case study discussion. At the network’s June meeting, practitioners watched a webinar about how to best support people who self-harm and followed it up with a conversation about self-harm challenges and strategies to help some identified individuals with a holistic, collaborative plan. 

“It’s at this point in the meeting that we often swap phone numbers or emails because we are such a diverse group with so many different services.  It’s making these linkages and collaborations that help my work in communities,” Nicole said. 

MHPN webinars are particularly convenient for rural practitioners to obtain professional development.  In 2015-16, around 15% of MHPN webinar attendees were from outside a major metropolitan area.

Webinars are fantastic and a great opportunity.  Professional development is so expensive in the Kimberley and it takes 2 days to get anywhere. MHPN webinars are free and we get CPD points!  Combining a network meeting and a webinar is particularly useful.   We make our connections, while we learn together.  Everyone appreciates this and enjoys it,” she said.

Practitioners working in remote communities face many difficulties.  According to Nicole, one especially challenging aspect working in an area the size of the Kimberley is the lack of coordination of services. Some remote communities still don’t have mobile phone coverage and Telehealth is one way of overcoming this hurdle. 

“It’s the little things like offering us free professional development that makes a difference to us.  It’s just so difficult for us to access,” Nicole said.

Do you work in a remote area?  Make the most of MHPN’s free professional development and watch a webinar, or start or join a network