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Innovative training portal for nurses aims to build a movement of breast health advocates


Improving access to breast care nurses for all women is a priority in the South African breast health arena. Nurses are urged to sign up to a new, progressive online education portal which aims to make that possible, both in the public and private healthcare sectors.

Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers among women in South Africa. Early detection of the disease, through regular examination, has led to a greater than 90% survival rate over five years.

That’s why the Breast Health Foundation (BHF), in partnership with Discovery Health and Phakamisa, an AstraZeneca initiative, has launched an easy-to-use online development, training and education platform for nurses and healthcare practitioners (HCPs).

The platform will help nurses and HCPs update their knowledge and skills as part of their continuing professional development (CPD) responsibility. Through the portal, they can access training materials, and educational and legislation-based content.

Louise Turner, Chief Operations Officer of the BHF, said the development of the platform highlights the importance of ‘the four Ps’ – Patient, Public and Private Partnerships. Speaking at the launch, Turner invited key stakeholders to assist the foundation in building a breast health advocacy movement.

Agents of action and change

“We appeal to nurses to sign up and become breast health advocates, and become agents of action and change in the mission to eradicate breast cancer in South Africa,” Turner said.

“We need to join forces to promote women’s health and stop people dying of breast cancer. Currently, one in eight women in South Africa are at risk of developing breast cancer. Because early detection saves lives, it is critical that all women have access to the right patient care – an area where nurses play a vitally important role. As an NGO, we have taken the opportunity to launch a training platform that will educate nurses about breast health and disease detection. Not only does early treatment save lives, but it also costs less than managing late-stage cancers, which is a key consideration in a developing country like ours.”

The passionate team behind www.training.mybreast.org.za are excited about the impact that the training could have. In many places in South Africa, the first contact with a health professional for women with breast complaints is a nurse in a primary clinic.

Developed in consultation with accreditation bodies, pharmaceutical companies, and local government, nurses who sign up gain access to the latest information. The team has also worked with industry professionals and key opinion leaders to obtain interesting, relevant, compliant, fresh and ground-breaking content.

The material is available on video, presentation or document format. The first module provides a thorough introduction to basic breast health. As users proceed, the information becomes more in-depth and advanced. A CPD certificate is issued for all accredited content passed, and CPD points are allocated accordingly. On completion of the full module, the user receives a Breast Advocate Certificate.

The training platform is easily accessible any time, and from any Internet-enabled device, including tablets and mobile phones. Users can track their progress and score CPD points.

“Additional modules will be introduced over time,” says Turner. “The goal is to have live theatre feeds within a couple of years and to give users practical insights into breast surgery. Any nurse or HCP is able to learn and benefit from this training. We have around 400 000 registered nurses in the country, yet less than 1% work in breast care. We need to bring more of them on board in order to ensure early detection, followed by diagnosis, and treatment.”

Turner adds that CPD accredited training benefits the nursing profession, resulting in increased work satisfaction, greater job retention, and lower stress in the nursing profession, ultimately benefiting the patients.

South African actress and breast care activist, Lillian Dube said breast cancer need not be a death sentence if detected early. “Nurses have a central role to play when it comes to breast education and clinical breast examinations, and also in helping women going through treatment for breast cancer. A patient simply cannot do it alone.”

Nurses key to breast care

Also sharing her expertise at the event was Professor Carol-Ann Benn. A globally renowned specialist breast surgeon, head of the Helen Joseph and Netcare Breast Care Centre, and founder of the BHF, she is an outspoken and committed breast health advocate.

“Breast health is simple,” she said. “Mammography is a privilege in a country like ours, which is why it is so necessary to train nurses to perform clinical breast examinations, and to understand more about general breast health and breast care.”

She also stressed that breast care nurses improve the continuity of care for women, and provide important information, support and referral for a wide range of needs experienced by women.

One of the major challenges is that the hostility of the hospital environment which keeps patients away, Professor Benn added. “We need our nurses to navigate the journey for breast cancer patients. By empowering them, we can enable nurses to properly communicate with patients throughout the treatment process and through the post-care compliance journey. Whether they have six months to live or ten years, every patient has a right to dignity and nurses are the starting point when it comes to ensuring that.”

Tackling breast care as a collective gives healthcare provides greater power to help patients, Benn added, which is why every nurse in the country has the ability to help make an important difference.

How to get started

Signing up to the online portal is quick and easy:
Visit www.training.mybreast.org.za from any device with Internet access.
Register using your professional registration number and details. Once completed, you need to verify the link sent via email to log onto the training site.
Access content and complete the training.
Track your progress and download certificates as you compete each topic.