September 24, 2020

Dedicated graduate nurses and midwives improving patient care

Working your first year as a graduate nurse or midwife can be challenging in any year, let alone if you start your graduate program during a pandemic.

The graduates who started their careers with Northern Health this year have shown commitment and dedication during a difficult time, contributing to excellent care of our patients whilst also undertaking research and completing projects behind the scenes.

Every year, graduates undertake a quality and safety project as part of their program. These projects help to improve patient care by elevating quality and safety measures across our health service.

“This gives graduates an introduction into processes around quality and safety, to provide safer patient care. Introducing them to things like data collection, auditing and evidence-based practice allows them to make positive changes in the workplace and be able to evaluate those changes,” said Kate Duggan, Graduate Program Coordinator.

In conjunction with their Unit Manager, graduates select a topic they are interested in and they feel they can make a change in. Over a timeline of approximately five months, they undertake data collection, research around the topic and conduct audits.

“Afterwards, they suggest a change that may improve practice and then go through an implementation phase, followed by a re-audit to see if the change has been positive – which is essentially based on patient outcomes,” Kate said.

Graduates have recently finalised their posters to report their findings, which are now available to view here. Normally, posters would be showcased prior to Research Week, however, due to COVID-19, the posters are now only available electronically and staff will be able to vote for the ‘Peoples Choice Award’.

“We encourage Northern Health staff to view these posters and vote to help recognise the work that graduates are doing, and to acknowledge their contribution to improving patient care at Northern,” Kate said.

Graduate nurse at Broadmeadows Hospital, Christine (pictured above) researched and implemented the ‘Sunflower Tool’ to improve safety and enhance care of dementia patients and patients with delirium.

“We have a lot of delirium and dementia patients on our ward, so we launched this tool to gain more information from families to help us build a rapport with patients and help calm them down when needed,” Christine said.

Nurses ask families a number of questions about their patients, to learn about their interests and things that matter to them, like their pet names, place they were born and which footy team they barrack for. The tool is displayed in their room and nurses can refer to it to strike up a conversation and chat about their interests should their behaviour start to escalate. Christine has found the tool very helpful, providing more patient-centred care, and helping keep patients engaged and feel comfortable.

“The families likes it as well, as we’re putting a real interest into their loved one and they appreciate it. It’s proving really well, especially with delirium patients – if you start talking about their family pet, they pay attention!”

Kate Duggan explained graduates have also helped contribute to our pandemic response. “In line with other staff, graduate nurses and midwives received further education and support around advanced respiratory care and assessment, as well as PPE training,” she said.

In a normal year, graduates can find transitioning and adapting to a new workplace challenging, finding the balance between work and home life and adapting to new responsibilities and learning opportunities. COVID-19 has made things even more challenging, but our new staff members have shown continued commitment to their work.