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Never say never

A rapid-response nursing service for older people struggling in their homes has won the Innovation in Nursing category of the HESTA Australian Nursing Awards.

Do whatever it takes and never say we can’t help. That is the philosophy of the Geriatric Flying Squad, developed at the War Memorial Hospital in NSW. And it is one they live by. Clinical Nurse Consultant Amanda Klahr manages the program, which provides comprehensive geriatric assessments, multidisciplinary care in the home, and referrals to appropriate services.

The team includes a clinical nurse specialist, a doctor specialising in geriatric care, a social worker, occupational therapist, physiotherapist and clinical psychologist. “Our clients are community-dwelling elders who are failing at home for some reason. They are referred to us by a concerned GP, neighbour, carer or family member,” Klahr said.

“The Geriatric Flying Squad is a rapid-response service for sub-acute patients. The nurses triage the clients by researching their medical records and talking to family or the GP and we are in the house in two to three days.”
The aim of the service is to assist clients to continue to live in their own homes and to maximise their quality of life. A key benefit is the reduction in presentations to emergency departments for older people.

“Emergency departments are not the ideal environments for older people,” Klahr said.

“I like to think we rescue at least one older person a week by helping to eliminate unnecessary trips to the emergency department and in turn enabling emergency departments to continue delivering immediate and acute care to the broader community.”

If a patient needs hospital care, the team can organise direct admission into War Memorial Hospital for rehabilitation or two major local hospitals.

Established with funding from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), what sets the program apart is its use of laptop technology to offer a flexible, paperless mobile service.

“No two patients follow the same pathway of care. Our criteria are very flexible, which means we are very broad in what we see and can treat,” Klahr said.

“It’s about fitting the service to the client’s needs. If I go to a client’s house and they need a bath I give them a bath. Whether it’s a cognitive assessment, a leg ulcer, a complicated family situation or transport to a medical appointment, I can do it.”

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