A new model of patient care for emergency department nurses developed in the Illawarra will now be put in place at more than 30 hospitals nationally.
Wollongong Hospital ED nurse Professor Kate Curtis worked with the University of Sydney to develop the model which aims to improve the safety and quality of emergency nursing care.
It's one of 10 medical research projects announced this week to share in more than $11 million in funding from the Federal Government.
"Emergency nursing is more than A, B, C," Professor Curtis said.
"When patients come in, you don't always know what's wrong straight away - they might not be able to communicate properly for instance because they're so unwell.
"So emergency nurses need to know what questions to ask, what signs to look out for, so treatment can start as soon as possible.
"We're sometimes the only clinician a patient sees until a doctor comes several hours later, so it's important nurses have a systematic approach to assessing them and managing their care.
"Yet at the moment there's no consistent, evidence-based approach across Australia for emergency nurses to assess patients."
This led Professor Curtis - who's also the director of clinical care research for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District - to help develop the model which has been in place at district hospitals for some months.
"In the Illawarra we tested and validated a consistent way for emergency nurses to assess their patients, and it had good outcomes," she said.
"So much so that the Chief Nurse of Australia and the Australian Commission on Quality, Health and Safety want to support us in implementing and evaluating this emergency nursing model in 32 other emergency departments across Australia."
Professor Curtis said it wasn't about trying to teach emergency nurses how to do their jobs, but providing a structured framework to teach new and junior nurses.
The steps include collecting patient history; identifying red flags; conducting a physical assessment; initiating any necessary interventions or tests and reassessing the patient at appropriate intervals. Effective communication needed to be maintained throughout with the patient, their family or friends, and other clinicians.
"It's about ensuring we have a consistent way of teaching new nurses in emergency about how their should approach their patients, and manage patient care," she said.
"It's all about patient safety, and the Illawarra is really leading the way for the rest of the country."
The project is receiving $1.5 million in the current round of National Health and Medical Research Council's Partnership Project grants.
The 10 successful projects have also received funding from partners including hospitals, state governments, services and patient representative bodies.
More details on Professor Curtis' research project can be found here.
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