Bridge of Support
Women's Health Victoria Jul 2015 - Jun 2017
Women’s Health Victoria Inc. focuses on improving the lives of Victorian women. They undertake strategic health promotion and advocacy to improve women’s health and provide a number of direct services.
Through its Counterpart service and in conjunction with Western Health Sunshine Hospital in St Albans, Victoria, Women’s Health Victoria (WHV) delivers the Bridge of Support (BOS) program.
BOS is an outreach model of “supportive care”, an umbrella term used to refer to non-medical services. Having trained volunteers with a lived experience of cancer available at treatment centres provides diagnosed women with a safe and supportive environment to discuss and explore what they are facing. This complements the hospital's clinical care and offers hope to women with cancer at any stage of their life.
Women from low income and/or culturally diverse backgrounds are high users of the service at Western Health and are often the ones who experience additional disadvantage due to cultural and language barriers.
BOS however, successfully engaged this hard-to-reach demographic and over an 18 month period more than half of the 126 women contacted were from 25 different, non-English speaking backgrounds.
Acknowledging the BOS program success and the importance of this program to the women of Western Health, now that our funding has completed, the Victorian government is supporting the program’s continuance.
“Overwhelmingly women reported they had an excellent experience… and found the support and mutual experiences helpful.” said Dianne Hill, Counterpart Manager, when providing additional insight about the program. “Thank you (LUCRF Super Community Program) for your support of our work in helping women with cancer access the support services they need to live well.”
The participant's story below illustrates how the program supports women practically and emotionally.
In 2016, Jenny* was diagnosed with a rare form of inflammatory breast cancer.
This confronting diagnosis, along with the loss of her breast and the mountain of information available on the internet had left her feeling distressed and anxious for the future.
Fortunately, a nurse at the Sunshine Hospital referred Jenny to the BOS program.
Professionally trained volunteers offered their own stories of struggle and survival, providing an invaluable source of support for Jenny and women like her, at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives.
It took Jenny several visits with volunteers before she found the courage to open up and talk about her financial concerns, the pain she experienced post-chemotherapy and the stress and anxiety that resulted from caring for her disabled adult child.
Following on from the encouragement and guidance she received, Jenny now feels stronger. Additionally, she was given advice about relevant information sessions, resources and treatment options that she hadn’t been aware of before joining the program.
Such support has meant that Jenny can now live her life one day at a time. She worries less about the ‘what ifs’ of the future and focuses more on the opportunities to be found in the present.
*Name changed for privacy purposes.
We’re proud to have supported the Bridge of Support program at the Western Health Breast Service, successfully developed and delivered by Counterpart.
Based on the success of the Bridge of Support project, the Community Program went on to support the Telehealth cancer support services for rural and regional Victoria project in 2018.