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Celebrating International Nurses Day

7 May 2004

Canterbury DHB To Celebrate International Nurses Day

The crucial role of nurses in the battle against poverty will be the focus of this year’s International Nurses Day next Wednesday.

As the role of nurses is constantly expanding to keep pace with a changing world, the diversity of the career is providing more and more opportunities. The Canterbury District Health Board says that there is also more recognition today of the clinical expertise that nurses have and the growing awareness of the need to involve nurses in the management of health-care.

The CDHB is marking International Nurses Day with a series of presentations that focus on how Canterbury nurses have taken the lead in several areas to institute ground-breaking initiatives, especially in the field of community involvement.

One such programme is the Neonatal Outreach Services at Christchurch Women’s Hospital where Jan Dobson and Georgina Ennor are in charge of the Neonatal Abstinenence Syndrome community programme.

“We both look after the babies of mothers in the methadone programme,” says Georgina. “Once the babies are born we have to give them morphine to counteract the symptoms of the mother’s methadone.

“Once the babies are stabilized on morphine in the nursery, they go back into the community with the mother and then come into the clinic once a week as they are gradually weaned off the morphine. We also visit them in their homes twice a week.”

Georgina says that Christchurch is the only New Zealand centre running such an initiative.

“We trialed the programme about four years ago, wrote up the protocols, set up the logistics and then re-evaluated it after a year. The feedback was tremendous and the results so good that we decided it was the way to go,” says Georgina.

The Unit has about eight babies in the programme at the moment and has looked after 85 babies over the last four years. “The mothers think its wonderful because they are not stuck in hospital for months so not only does it free up beds, and save dollars but the mothers have a chance to work at having a normal life in their home environment.”

Another service that is helping patients get back into their homes and live normal lives is a co-operative scheme run by the Nurse Maude Association and Christchurch Hospitals Infectious Disease Ward. Amanda Dyer of Nurse Maude and Kate Gallagher of Christchurch Hospital run the service allows patients receiving antibiotics to go home and either self-administer antibiotics through an IV or have a district nurse visit and do it for them

Amanda says that a thorough screen process dictates which patients are suitable. They have a PICC line administered in hospital and then go home. “Nurse Maude is really responsible for the smooth running of the process once everything is put in place. It frees up bed space in hospitals and removes much of the stress from patients like loss of income or a disrupted family life. It gives them the chance to get back to a normal life sooner.

Nurses are also taking the lead in the field of cardiology. A scheme set up by a resident in 2001 and successfully trialed for a year is reducing the stay in hospital for non-chronic cardiac cases from 48 to 24 hours.

Wendy Cuthill runs the nurse-led exercise tolerance testing programme at Christchurch Hospital where nurses have been trained to do the testing of cardiac patients.

Previously patients would have to been seen by a cardiologist who was only available at certain times during the week. Now the nurses are involved, patients can be tested at any time during the day, including on weekends. “What that means,” says Wendy, “is that not only can patients go home sooner, but it also frees up health surgeons to be able to do more ward rounds.”

The exercise tolerance testing programme runs in conjunction with the chest pain assessment unit. “We administer blood and exercise tests to patients in the low risk group who are presenting for the first time but don’t have a history. Depending on the results, which the nurses have been specially trained to read, we can often send a patient home armed with the knowledge of what he or she can do to help themselves. For instance high cholesterol can be helped by diet and exercise and we can educate patients about that without them having to stay in hospital for 48 hours or more.”

The projects will be explained at different venues throughout the CDHB next week with the Trophy for Nursing Excellence being presented at the Rolleston Lecture Theatre, Christchurch hospital.


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