July 1, 2020

First STEP training for Neurology nurses

Seven nurses at our Neurology department have been enrolled in the STEP (Supported Transition to Excellence in Practice) program, the first time ever for the Neurology department. The STEP program is a way of helping the team enhance their nursing skills, capabilities and understanding across the variety of disciplines.

“It’s the first time we are running the STEP program in Neurology. This is a very exciting time for neurology and stroke because once the new ward is open, will have new capabilities in terms of two EEG (electroencephalogram) monitoring rooms, where we will be able to get much more timely information about people’s epilepsy and related conditions.  It will also have a high dependency unit for stroke,” explains A/Prof Doug Crompton, Head of Neurology.

The program started in March and the team has four days of tutorials and group learning and one day of clinical work.

“That is where the team gets to see how we do our ward based and emergency assessments- we have more than a 100 code stroke emergencies every month. The STEP learners will get involved in that as well and see how code stroke emergency assessments happen,” he explained.

In addition to this, the nurses have individual patient projects to do and they are able to upskill in some of the assessments currently not done by nursing staff, whilst learning about the National Institute of Health’s Stroke Scale assessments, which helps identify deterioration or improvement in stroke patients.

“The idea for the STEP program came because we wanted to enhance people’s skills, and also because we don’t have a long standing heritage in stroke and neurology nursing. The neurology department has grown enormously since 2012 and now we are one of the busiest departments within the medicine directorate, in terms of how many patients are admitted and discharged over a year,” A/Prof Crompton said.

Back in 2012 when he started at Northern Health, Neurology was only a consultative service and last year the department had around more than 1200 admissions and discharges across neurology and stroke.

“We have also enormously expanded our capability and have a lot of speciality services now – motor neurone disease service, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) clinic, epilepsy clinics, headache clinic, migraine botox clinic, neurophysiology clinics, EEG, movement disorders, and stroke prevention clinics,” he explained.

Regular upskilling within the neurology team in crucial to be able to tackle one of the biggest risks in stroke treatment – and that is undetected deterioration.

“A lot of stroke patients are vulnerable to deterioration after the first couple of days after the stroke, so having a very refined way of assessing that is ideal and that is included in the STEP program. The deterioration in those patients doesn’t show up in an ICU setting, only in a specific clinical assessment,” he explained.

Some of the nursing team enrolled into the STEP program shared their positive experience, adding the team have learned quite a lot about the neurological disorders that have been common on their ward.

Nadine Stowell, ANUM on the Neurology Ward said learning how to do spirometry is an excellent skill to have and she is hoping it will help the team detect deterioration with patients.

“Headache study day was also great, I learnt more about the headaches that I thought was even possible,” she explained.