October 14, 2019

Happy International Allied Health Day

Today is the International Allied Health Professionals (AHP) Day, celebrated for the first time across Australia. This initiative started last year in the UK to celebrate the allied health professionals and the work they do.

Kyrstie Worn, a young mother of four daughters, comes to Northern Health for allied health support and treatment for her youngest daughter, after she had a great experience with her second.

Some of babies who present to Northern Health require ongoing support from the allied health team after they are discharged from the nursery. Northern Health provides allied health developmental follow up through our multidisciplinary feeding clinics (speech pathology and dietetics) and neurodevelopmental motor clinics (physiotherapy and occupational therapy). These clinics are also supported by our paediatric social worker who is able to provide psychosocial assessment and facilitate referral to community support services that can make the transition from hospital to home smoother.

“Willow, my second daughter, was born at 28 weeks at Royal Women’s and then she came here, as that’s the hospital I wanted her to come to,” Kyrstie said.

Willow was only 33 weeks old when she came to Northern Health with a feeding tube.

Northern Hospital neonatal unit has a 20 cot Level V nursery that includes a team of dedicated allied health professionals who deliver multidisciplinary, developmentally supportive intervention.  The neonatal allied health team see all babies who are admitted to Northern Health’s neonatal unit born at less than or equal to 32 weeks gestation and/or born at less than or equal to 2000g.

“She was an extremely premature infant and even though I could have gone to Sunshine Hospital which is closer to my home, I decided to bring her to Northern, because of my previous experience,” Kyrstie said.

A couple of years later, Kyrstie gave birth to her fourth daughter.

“I had my fourth girl, Sophia, at 24 weeks at Mercy. As soon as she was good enough to transfer, I brought her here.  The team here talked to me all the time and explained everything,” she said.

Justine Slattery, Speech Pathologist says babies who are admitted to Neonatal Unit (NNU), particularly those who are born very premature, have an increased risk of difficulties across a range of developmental areas including feeding, growth, motor and communication skills.  Early input from neonatal trained allied health professionals can positively influence these babies developmental outcomes.

“We have a developmental team here; a speech pathologist, dietitian, a physio and OT, and the team had worked with Kyrstie’s older daughter, Willow when she had feeding issues. Willow was discharged home with a feeding tube and attended the allied health feeding clinic for help with growth, nutrition and developing her feeding skills,” Justine said.

Neonatal allied health professionals work together with families, medical and nursing staff to optimize each babies development while they are in the nursery through individualised cue based caregiving practices across feeding, positioning, sleep and handling.

The developmental team also collaborate with nursing and medical teams to make sure that physical environment e.g. lighting, sound in the nursery promotes optimum neurodevelopment.

Image: Kyrstie Worn, mother, with Willow (3.5 years old), Myah (18 months old), Sophia (2 months old) with our two members of our paediatric allied health team