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June 2013

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Western Health Chief Executive Officer Alex Cockram and clinical nurse consultant Kathy Kirby.

Western Health innovators win national nurse award

Western Health clinical nurse consultant Kathy Kirby and her team have claimed top honours in the Team Innovation category at this year’s HESTA Australian Nursing Awards.

They received the award for their work training non-clinical hospital staff and volunteers on how to communicate with patients with dementia.

The Team Innovation Award honours a nursing profession-led team that ‘demonstrates innovation by initiating a product, service or system that benefits patients and/or the community, and that shows willingness to share the knowledge – contributing to a healthier future for all Australians.’

After receiving a dementia grant through the Victoria and Tasmania Dementia Training Study Centre in November, 2012, Ms Kirby and her team established the Understanding Dementia program to improve non-clinical staff knowledge about dementia and established a volunteer team to support patients with a cognitive impairment.

‘Dementia is a serious health issue with the number of Victorians with the disease expected to increase by 400 per cent to 94,000 by 2050,’ Ms Kirby said.

‘Patients coming into hospital with dementia and delirium are at a high risk of experiencing adverse clinical events as a result of their cognitive impairment.

‘We wanted to ensure all staff in our health service were trained and confident in communicating with patients with dementia.

‘We looked at our data and realised that, although 44 per cent of our total workforce are nurses, 22 per cent is made up of non-clinical staff.

‘Personal service attendants, cleaners, porters and ward clerks have daily contact with patients as often as nurses do,’ Ms Kirby said.

A pre-education survey identified that 43 per cent of staff had prior informal education or information regarding dementia, related to family members being diagnosed with dementia.

The post education evaluation demonstrated that 97 per cent of staff found the education useful with 74 per cent sharing the information with other work colleagues or family and friends.

Western Health Chief Executive Officer Alex Cockram praised Kathy and her team for their innovative approach to improving patient care at Western Health.

‘Congratulations to Kathy, the volunteer co-ordination team and ward staff who contributed to this excellent approach to supporting patients with dementia,’ Associate Professor Cockram said.

‘Winning this award is an exceptional honour and confirms that Western Health is at the forefront of nursing innovation in many ways.’

The winners of the HESTA Australian Nursing Awards were announced at an awards dinner, where Kathy accepted a $10,000 development grant for the program.