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Efficiency experts

Conference speakers call for staff to spread the word about improving service to patients by expanding their scope of practice.

Nursing engagement and expansion were the hot topics at Southern Cross University’s recent healthcare conference.

Frances Hughes, the chief nursing and midwifery officer for Queensland’s Department of Health, spoke to delegates about her vision for expanding nurses’ scope of practice.

Using the strategy for optimising nursing developed in Queensland as an example, Hughes encouraged attendees to articulate what a wonderful solution nurses are to growing healthcare costs in Australian states and territories.

“[We can’t] be scared of talking about efficiency and effectiveness,” she said. “We have to do something to improve services, and by improving services to consumers and patients we will save money along the way.

“It’s about getting real about doing the best we can for patients and that is using our evidence and massive workforce to its full scope.”

Efficiency, Hughes said, isn’t about slashing jobs and budgets. She said knowing data and understanding it is important.

“[Improving efficiency] plays right into our hands because we can use it to change models of care,” she explained. “A lot of models of care are outdated. They are highly controlled by specialist medical people when they don’t need to be – they are not client focused and they are not patient focused.

“We want more responsiveness in our system and that’s a major form of dynamic efficiency.”

Professor Iain Graham, head of the school for health and human science at SCU, gave an international perspective on the impact of nursing and midwifery in the world of healthcare.

“We are older, we are living longer, we are living with more chronic health problems, so [it’s important to look at] the impact of that on the way nurses are educated and trained, as well as the wider healthcare team,” Graham said. “[There is a] need to engage in much more lifelong learning. Once they’re qualified, graduate and leave university, it’s the start of their learning journey, not the end. [This is necessary] to maintain capability and competence, to be safe practitioners, to be able to provide quality patient care, manage cost constraints and so forth – and rationing of services.”

John Hurley, associate professor from SCU’s school of health and human sciences, said the event also gave many nurses the opportunity to showcase innovative evidence-based nursing or midwifery practice in a less threatening environment.

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