The Australia Defence Force’s only three nurse practitioners have all been embarked in HMAS Canberra during Exercise OCEAN EXPLORER, enhancing the Fleet’s medical capabilities and completing preparations for the maritime task group’s upcoming international deployment.
The Navy is the only service that formally endorses nurse practitioners – the most senior clinical nurses in the Australian medical system – and each of the three have roles to play in providing high-quality care to those working and living in Canberra during her months at sea.
Canberra’s Senior Health Officer, Lieutenant Commander Patricia Kemp, described the importance of a nurse practitioner, who can often spend more time with a patient, treat the more common primary health care cases, and provide routine care, allowing a doctor to concentrate on more complicated cases.
“This is a unique situation to have all three of us on the ship at the same time, supporting the Joint Task Force,” Lieutenant Commander Kemp said.
“As we are working and living with our patients on the ship, we also have an understanding of the occupational environment of each patient and their fitness for duty at sea.
“The three of us on board Canberra can also perform annual medical checks and are qualified in women’s health and sexual health,” she said.
Working on a ship in the middle of the ocean could be seen as one of the most challenging medical environments, but the team takes it in their stride, focusing on providing the best care to their Canberra patients.
If needed, they can also provide medical treatment to patients in HMA Ships Success, Newcastle and Parramatta, which are part of the maritime task group participating in OCEAN EXPLORER and the upcoming deployment.
As the officer in charge of the medical team, Lieutenant Commander Kemp may also lead community health engagements in some of the upcoming international port visits.
Lieutenant Commander Roneel Chandra, Canberra’s resuscitation team leader, transferred to the Navy after many years of service with the Australian Army.
“As nurse practitioners we offer a different model of patient care, as we see them at the beginning, middle and throughout their care journey,” Lieutenant Commander Chandra said.
“I developed my skills and qualifications over many years, and I transferred to Navy specifically so I could remain in a clinical role and utilise my nurse practitioner qualifications in a clinical setting.”
Rounding out the strong team is Lieutenant Lisa Bird, who trained as a nurse practitioner in the UK before joining the Royal Australian Navy 18 months ago. She provides clinical supervisory support for the medics on board, and conducts officer of the day duties.
All three said that their complementary skills allow them to “plug and play” as they work together to triage, diagnose and treat patients.
“It’s a team effort, and having nurse practitioners aboard provides even more medical skills to maintain the ship’s overall medical capability,” Lieutenant Bird said.
With three nurse practitioners at hand, the prognosis is positive for all those aboard Canberra.