This week we’re profiling the amazing women doing great work to improve sexual and reproductive health in our region!
Superheroes of SRH: Suzanne Wallis
Rural Sexual Health Nurse Practitioner
GV Health and The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine
- How are you working to improve sexual and reproductive health?
It’s almost eight years since I came to the Rural Sexual Health Nurse Practitioner role to create a comprehensive sexual health service in Hume region. The outreach model of care enables me to provide a range of confidential clinical services in a variety of safe settings such as headspace, secondary schools and clinics in Shepparton, Kyabram, Rushworth and Benalla. Services include STI screening and treatment, contraception advice (including Implanon insertion), free condoms, emergency contraception, pregnancy testing, unplanned pregnancy counselling and referral, cervical screening (PAP smears), genital pain and discomfort, sex work certificates, Blood Borne Virus screening, counselling and referral, Hepatitis C treatment, HIV PrEP, Contact Tracing and referral to specialist services. A referral is not required for these services which are free or Medicare bulk billed.
- What do you love most about your work?
I love being able to make a difference to people’s lives by empowering them with knowledge, often allaying concerns and fears. I’m committed to enabling people to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health with the capacity to act. Discussing contraception options with young women is an example where I have time to provide more information for each woman to make an informed choice to suit her needs and circumstances.
- Why is your work important?
Although it’s a component of care that GPs can provide, sexual and reproductive health care can be neglected. Clients say they like an alternative health practitioner to have these often difficult to broach conversations, tests and health care with. Confidentiality, judgement and stigma can still get in the way when people need sexual and reproductive health care in small, rural communities, particularly for young women who want to discuss contraception and unplanned pregnancy testing and choices. Outreach services address many of the barriers to sexual and reproductive health care in rural areas and our clinics see everyone without judgement.
- What do you think are the biggest sexual and reproductive health issues facing women that you work with?
Lack of accurate knowledge and information is a continuing issue for women, particularly about long acting reversible contraception (LARC), pregnancy options and where to go for supportive doctors. I still see women with debilitating symptoms of endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome but can provide referrals to specialists and simple treatments to assist during wait times.