The Breast Health Foundation (BHF), in partnership with Discovery Health and Phakamisa, an AstraZeneca initiative, has launched an 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, educational and legislation-based content relating to breast health.

According to Chief Operations Officer of the BHF, Louise Turner, 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.

“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. 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,” said Turner.

“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,” continued Turner.

The team behind the platform 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.

Nurses who sign up to the platform gain access to the latest relevant content developed in collaboration with accreditation bodies, pharmaceutical companies and local government.

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. The goal is to have live theatre feeds within a couple of years and to give users practical insights into breast surgery,” said Turner.

“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,” continued Turner.

Turner added 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.

“Breast health is simple. 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,” said Head of the Helen Joseph and Netcare Breast Care Centre, and Founder of the BHF, Professor Carol-Ann Benn.

“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,” concluded Prof Benn.

To sign up, nurses can visit from any device with internet access.