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Reaching new heights

Building on its success in the community, the award-winning ‘geriatric flying squad’ is planning an expansion into residential aged care. By Linda Belardi.

The past 12 months have been a whirlwind of activity for clinical nurse consultant Amanda Klahr and her team at the geriatric flying squad.

Since winning the HESTA Australian Nursing award for Innovation in May, the rapid-response nursing service has doubled its patient load, travelled the country on a speaking-tour and picked up another gong along the way.

A funding proposal to expand the specialist geriatric assessment service into residential aged care is also currently before COAG.

In the past six months alone, the number of new referrals to the multidisciplinary team, which includes a geriatrician, clinical nurse consultant, psychologist, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and social worker, has increased by 50 per cent.

“Despite this significant increase in activity, we have maintained our rapid response times. We will respond to 75 per cent of clients by phone within 48 hours of referral and within 5 days, three quarters of all patients have received a face-to-face visit and comprehensive assessment,” she told Nursing Review.

As a new service, Klahr said the national recognition helped boost staff morale, increase productivity and allowed the organisation to expand in size. Using a $10,000 development grant, the team was able to purchase new computers and a portable ECG machine to respond to any cardiac symptoms during home-visits.

The Geriatric Flying Squad is currently based in the out-patients department at War Memorial Hospital in Sydney and provides comprehensive geriatric assessment and short-term management for aged patients in the community. The nurses triage the clients by researching their medical records and talking to family or the GP.

“I spent a lot of time last year travelling around Australia presenting at conferences and really getting the message out there about the role and philosophy of the flying squad and hopefully inspiring lots of nurses in aged care as well. One of the big things for me is driving the passion for aged care nursing and reminding people what an important area of specialty it is.”

The proposed expansion into high care facilities is seen as an opportunity to bring high-level medical and allied health services to residential aged care, said Klahr, who is currently studying to become a nurse practitioner.

“Residents often have multiple co-morbidities and receive multiple medications; they need specialised support to ensure that their complex needs are met but often visiting GPs are very stretched. Our service can support nurses and doctors to comprehensively assess and manage the needs of clients.”

Due to the model’s success and positive community reaction, the service which currently covers the south-eastern Sydney local health district, is likely to be replicated in other parts of the country.

Clinicians and health teams interstate have expressed an interest in establishing services elsewhere in NSW and in other regions in Australia.

For Klahr, the key to the program’s success is its flexibility.

“Unfortunately, in the healthcare system at the moment there can be a large amount of inflexibility and strict criteria about who can access a service. We will do whatever it takes to make sure that the patients referred to us receive the care that they need.”

Now in its sixth year, the HESTA Australian nursing awards recognise the exceptional achievements of nurses, midwives, personal care attendants and assistants in nursing from across the country.

Public nominations for the 2012 awards are open until February 29. For more information or to nominate go to: hestanursingawards.com

Nursing Review reported on the geriatric flying squad in our October 2011 issue. Read it again here: [[Story:21-041011]]

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