A 16-year-old Toni Simmons stood and watched her mother lie on blood-soaked hospital sheets with vomit on her pillow case after an operation for kidney cancer.
In that instant teenage Toni knew she had to become a nurse.
“She looked like she was about to die, she looked horrible. Mum had been in and out of hospital before but had never looked like this.
“It was in that moment I knew I had to become a nurse and that no family member would have to see their loved one in that state,” she said.
After graduating from CQU Toni has climbed the nursing ranks from working on the ward and patient safety and is now one of the driving forces behind HealthPathways.
HealthPathways is an IT platform for healthcare professionals to find treatment pathways for almost 500 medical conditions (and counting).
It outlines available services and the next steps for a patient’s care.
“We are reducing the run-around for patients and connecting them with the right care in a timely way,” Toni explained.
Every GP clinic in the Mackay HHS has a HealthPathways icon on their desk top to give them an instant view of local services and what tests are required before they are referred to a specialist doctor.
“I’m passionate about HealthPathways because it’s leading to greater overall change, not just improvements on a patient and ward level.
“Trying to navigate the healthcare system is complicated and it’s important for healthcare providers to know what services are available and keeping up to date with evidence based practice in terms of what’s best assessment and management for patients as well.”
Toni is also passionate about improving communication between primary and acute care so all parties are working together for the best interest of patients.
Since the Mackay HealthPathways portal went live in 2015 there are 496 pathways live and each month about 450 active users.
Toni is involved in research into whether HealthPathways has led to changes in referral patterns and whether people are being more adequately managed in primary care.
She is also excited about autism research to design the first pathway for children and adults who have been diagnosed with autism.
“This pathway will map out services available in the Mackay HHS across a person’s lifespan. The goal is to make sure people with autism are well managed in general practice and have a better quality of life.”
Toni’s work taken her to New Zealand and the Northern Territory to share Mackay’s experience.
And did she ever see her career taking her to these heights?
“No! It’s been an absolute roller coaster and privilege, and also humbling. My main focus is always the patient and that’s what’s it’s about – improving outcomes for people.
“I work with an amazing team and we build on each other’s strength, foster and nurture ideas. We believe nothing is impossible and will always be bold to make changes.”
Note: Toni’s mum went on to make a good recover and her cancer has not returned. She’s also very proud of her daughter.