A grassroots approach to teen health that started in Bega is rolling out to five new locations in the region.
Teen Clinic is a free, nurse-led service operating at Bega Valley Medical Practice that invites teens to drop in and discuss their health and lifestyle in a relaxed and confidential environment.
Following its success, $165,000 in Commonwealth funding has been put toward replicating the service at general practices in Bermagui, Eden, Merimbula, Narooma and Kiama.
Bega Teen Clinic nurses Meghan Campbell and Cassy Hooper have been engaging their counterparts in each town ahead of the roll out.
“This is a nurse-led clinic, but they have the back up of the GPs and psychologists if needed, so a lot of training was making sure the nurses' knowledge covered a whole range of issues that can affect teens,” Ms Campbell said.
Teen Clinic opened at Bega Valley Medical Practice just under two years ago when the staff recognised a need in the community for a free, comprehensive and confidential service aimed at teens in a more relaxed environment than a GP visit.
“It's quite common for patients to tell nurses things they wouldn't tell their doctor, because the relationship feels less formal or because they find the nurse more relatable,” Ms Hooper said.
Teen Clinic operates from the Bega Valley Medical Practice every Tuesday and Thursday from 2-5pm. Ms Campbell said it is a small change to the existing practice that creates a huge change for accessibility.
“In a regional area like ours it's not feasible to set up a designated youth clinic in each town, the money and the population isn't here to support that, this model utilises existing infrastructure and resources to provide this additional service to the local community,” she said.
Bega Valley Medical Practice GP Duncan MacKinnon, who presented the model to federal parliamentarians last year with Ms Campbell, said Teen Clinic can work anywhere.
“This is a very replicable model of care, it can be picked up and applied to almost any rural practice, and once it's set up it's a very sustainable model,” Dr Mackinnon said.
“If no-one turns up to Teen Clinic one afternoon, there is no wasted time or resources, we just do our other work.”
Teen Clinic works with schools and groups to tailor the service to each town.
Jindabyne Medical Practice will share in the $165,000 of funding to implement technology connecting families to pediatricians.