In a study, utilising Participatory Action Research, involving rural and regional Queensland SBN's, one clear theme emerges from the analysed data - Ambiguity surrounding the SBN role. Themes of geographical diversity and isolation, dictating service provision also emerged.
This paper highlights significant impacts of SBN role ambiguity on coordinated practice and patient care.
Role ambiguity results from uncertainty and discrepancies between employer role expectations and the SBN practice guidelines. Role ambiguity is a threat to productivity in the workplace, with workers who experience role ambiguity at risk of professional burnout (Yoshie, Sato & Takahashi, 2008) and Aker (2003). The size of the Australia SBN workforce has rapidly increased in the past 10 years (Ahern, Gardner and Courtney (2016), a factor known to contribute to role ambiguity. When rapid growth occurs, services are often tendered out to third party companies for administration. Hence, services are no longer governed by traditional service providers, increasing potential for role variation, leading to role ambiguity. Yoshie et al. (2008) and Aker (2003) concur that role ambiguity can lead to professional burnout and reduced productivity through emotional exhaustion. In the current study, 70% of the positions were established in the past 10 years and 40% and 60% are administered by a third party organisation.
Many authors including Black and Farmer (2013), Ahern & Gardner (2015) & Jones et al. (2010) call for further research and clarification of the SBN role in Australia. Our study highlights the urgency for the role clarification and establishment of referral pathways from metropolitan to regional centres enhancing patient flow and creating supportive networks for both patients and the SBN.
We propose Australia needs to review SBN competency statements (2005) to honestly reflect the diversity within the current SBN workforce, to deliver equitable services to breast cancer patients across Australia.