Nurses given new skills to save lives

Thursday, 11 January, 2018

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has become the first in the State where specialist nurses are being trained to join the fight against bowel cancer.

A year-long trial of using highly skilled nurses to perform colonoscopies has reached the halfway mark, with 175 procedures completed so far

In June, SA Health implemented an advanced practice nurse endoscopist model of care, which has seen three nurses commence training to perform low-risk, non-complex endoscopic examinations, under the direct supervision of specialist doctors.

SA Health Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Adjunct Associate Professor Lydia Dennett, said the program enables medical staff to better manage and treat patients by delegating appropriate cases to highly qualified advanced practice nurses.

“This in turn allows better access to medical specialists for complex and advanced endoscopic cases,” Professor Dennett said.

“In this age of changing health care, there is a global need to find innovative, safe, cost-effective ways of delivering treatment.

“Increasingly around the world, experienced nurses are trained to practice at an advanced level, providing clinical expertise in a variety of settings.”

Advanced scope of practice roles are progressively seen as key to the development and delivery of efficient and effective health services, whilst ensuring the delivery of safe, high quality care to patients.

Professor Dennett said the growing demand for colonoscopy screening services in South Australia is driven by a range of factors and is set to rise, particularly as a result of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, which will be fully implemented by 2020.

“Bowel cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer, affecting one in 12 people by age 85, and colonoscopies play a crucial role in the diagnoses, treatment and ongoing surveillance of bowel cancer,” Professor Dennett said.

“South Australia has previous experience of nurse endoscopist working in public hospitals and was viewed as a pioneer in nurse endoscopy practice, so it is exciting to implement this pilot model of care here at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital as a shining example of workforce innovation.”

The Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adjunct Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars welcomed the implementation of the program at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

“The introduction of the nurse endoscopist model of care within SA Health is built on extensive international and national experience,” Professor Dabars said.

“An abundance of evidence clearly shows that the nurse endoscopist, with appropriate access to medical support, can perform at the same level of procedural competence as doctors and that this model of care can be implemented without compromising patient safety.”

“The ANMF is very pleased to see this latest example of advanced practice roles being implemented for nurses that will improve access and quality of services provided to the people of South Australia.

“We are continuing to work with SA Health and health services, to ensure that nurses are able to practice to the full extent of their capabilities.”

The three highly qualified and experienced nurses within the endoscopy field will undertake a minimum of 12 months advanced skills training leading to a Graduate Certificate of Endoscopy, with the training pathway delivered through a collaborative partnership with Austin Health, Victoria.

By the end of the 12 month practical training period, it is expected that trainees will have performed 600 colonoscopy procedures in total.

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