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Above: Innovations in Nursing Award finalist, Amanda Klahr, representing the Geriatric Flying Squad from War Memorial Hospital, Waverly, Sydney.

By Stephen Easton

Three entrants from the aged care sector have been selected as finalists in the 2011 HESTA Australian Nursing Awards, which puts each in the running for a $10,000 prize.

Amanda Klahr and her team, The Geriatric Flying Squad, were chosen among four Innovations in Nursing Award finalists, for their “rapid response and multidisciplinary model of homecare”.

Based in the outpatients department of the War Memorial Hospital in the Sydney suburb of Waverly, the Geriatric Flying Squad conducts assessments and provides care for people over 65 with sub-acute functional decline, co-morbidities and chronic conditions including dementia, both at home or in the hospital.

The team of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals responds to emergency calls from community care providers and General Practitioners, and can manage a patient at home or arrange sub-acute care through the outpatients department, keeping them out of the emergency department.

A $10,000 grant goes to the nurse or nursing team who wins the Innovations in Nursing Award, which must be spent on developing a service or program. For Nurse of the Year, the $10,000 prize money donated by ME Bank is to be spent on education or travel.

Above: Nurse of the Year finalist, Merrilyn Hewitt.

Merrilyn Hewitt from SA received her spot in the Nurse of the Year finals for the transformation of Barunga Village in Port Broughton she has overseen since starting as Director of Nursing in 1997, from a basic low care facility into a shining example of a regional mixed purpose facility, now offering 52 high and low care beds, 14 independent living units, specialist respite and dementia care, as well as a 45-unit retirement village under construction.

Some of her successes include Barunga Village residents going on four-night houseboat stays or 360km round trips to the zoo, while others help cook dinner or take part in crop inspections and sheep droving, to remind them of lives spent working on the land.

“We had a huge celebration recently when four of our residents turned 100,” Ms Hewitt said. “It highlights what is possible in aged care when residents are social and enjoy their lifestyle. If you can minimise pain and depression − they are the two biggest challenges − you can have a lot of fun.” 

“We had a resident who would become quite agitated in the late afternoon. He was a farmer so we would take him to a paddock so he could feel the wheat. He would break a bit off and talk about whether it was ready – it was a meaningful activity that related to a big part of his life.” 

Rebecca Burgess, also a Director of Nursing at an aged care facility, made the finals of the Nurse of the Year category for her leadership during the floods in Queensland, which saw the Churches of Christ nursing home she works at, Warrawee Aged Care in St George, evacuated on two occasions.

“The important thing was just to remain calm and in control to reduce residents’ anxiety. It was my job to ensure the residents were not fearful,” Ms Burgess said.

“I was an outsider from Scarborough, north-east of Brisbane, when I took the job. I think people were hesitant about how I would go. I feel like I belong now. After coping with two evacuations, I think people know they can trust me.”

The winners in each of the three categories – Nurse of the Year, the Innovations in Nursing Award and Graduate Nurse of the Year – will be announced at a ceremony on 12 May, Florence Nightingale’s birthday, at the Crown Entertainment Complex in Melbourne.



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