ACT News

New nursing initiatives to boost patient care at Canberra Hospital

Visits by family and friends are among things Canberra Hospital will more readily accommodate whenever possible, Natasha Boddy reports.

Team nursing, standardised visiting hours, new ways of collecting feedback and recruiting assistants in nursing are among a raft of initiatives unveiled to boost the experience of patients at Canberra Hospital.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and ACT Health director-general Dr Peggy Brown announced the new initiatives on Friday which have been introduced in response to patient feedback over the past year.

Canberra Hospital: Greater attention is being given to patients' personal care.
Canberra Hospital: Greater attention is being given to patients' personal care. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

"Some of the comments and feedback, particularly where people have concerns, have related to issues around personal care ... as opposed to (how) their health and medical care is taken care of in the hospital," Ms Gallagher said.

"The hospital has been really proactive in introducing some changes and those changes will continue and, as of December 1, visiting hours are going to be standardised across the hospital in those wards where it's clinically appropriate so instead of having a morning session and afternoon session, the hospital embraces family and friends." 

Dr Brown said the initiatives aimed to improve the overall standard of care in the hospital. 

"We focus often times on the standard of the clinical care in particular, but what we call the essentials of care is also really important to the patient experience so things like how they're able to access their meals and whether they can actually open the packaging, are they getting assistance with brushing their teeth and being able to go to toilet... so all of those sorts of things," she said. 

As part of the changes, nurses will work in teams to care for patients, the introduction of patient trackers to let patients record and "score" their experience and changes to the bed configuration to better match bed numbers with demand. 

Other measures include recruiting assistants in nursing to free up nurses' time, easier food packaging and the introduction of a tissue viability team that will assess patients' skin to identify those at risk of pressure injures. 

Ms Gallagher said the assistants in nursing would help reduce some of the load on nurses by carrying out some basic tasks which did not require the same high level of training which nurses had. 

"The team nursing approach (which has been implemented on ward 7B), just listening to the nurses there this morning talk about what a difference that's made both from a patient point of view but also from a workforce point of view, our nurses feel much more able to deal with the heavy workloads on a very busy ward like that," she said. 

"The government has been working since early 2014 on a range of strategies to better support nurses with ways to ensure top quality care in a busy and complex environment can be provided." 

Ms Gallagher said the initiatives were "directly in response to some of the concerns we've had in terms of feedback". 

The announcement came five days after The Canberra Sunday Times revealed the story of a woman who said her dying elderly father received such poor treatment at the Canberra Hospital during his last week of life that he begged her to come and take him away.  

ACT conducted an audit of basic care requirement across the hospital in February, which found that although on the whole, care was good, there was room for improvement. 

The audits were repeated in September and indicated care was improving in nearly all areas.