Nurses nominated for improving dementia care at Peel Health Campus

Two Mandurah nurses have been recognised for their tireless dedication to improving dementia and delirium care in the Peel region.

Nat Tomlin and Sue Birtwistle from Peel Health Campus have been named as finalists in the Excellence in Person Centred Care team award for this year's WA Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards.

The pair, who form part of the Quest (Quality, Education, Safety and Training) Team, were nominated for their collaborative work with patients, clients, carers, families and for providing a service that benefits the patient community.

Ms Tomlin and Ms Birtwistle were the driving force behind overdue improvements at the facility for patients with cognitive impairments after a complaint prompted action in 2016.

The Peel Health Campus received a letter of concern from Jim Duquemin in relation to the care his wife Paddi received after she was diagnosed with rapidly progressive dementia.

Quick to respond, the duo met with Mr Duquemin and his daughter to map out a 'patient journey' through the health care system, including issues from the initial GP visits, outpatients, multiple admissions and aged care placement all the way through to discharge planning and palliative management.

They then developed an action plan with consultation from relevant healthcare professionals to create improvements for those with cognitive impairments.

These improvements included increased education, a 'carer's corner' in the Peel Health Campus reception for better support and additional information, a review of key processes, improved communication between medical staff and carers and patients and a more stimulating hospital environment.

The Peel Health Campus' new 'Carers Corner' offers better support and additional information for carers of patients with cognitive impairments. Photo: Kaylee Meerton.

The Peel Health Campus' new 'Carers Corner' offers better support and additional information for carers of patients with cognitive impairments. Photo: Kaylee Meerton.

Ms Tomlin, a qualified dementia awareness educator, said the facility also made some significant changes to the Whelan ward where many of the patients were cared for.

"We have different coloured plates for their meal times, different colours in the ward, signs for the toilets, different coloured toilet seats," she said.

"We're working on getting a dementia friendly garden so we've got lots of things in the pipeline that we're working on.

"Obviously it is difficult when they're stuck in the wards 24 hours so we're trying to utilise the space that we have outside to give them that stimulation."

Mr Duquemin, who now sits on the Peel Health Campus Community Board of Advice, said he was honoured to be a part of the journey to improving conditions for dementia patients.

"Pat missed out on a lot of these things but I'm glad I'm doing something to make a difference to other people, that's me giving back," he said.

"It was the best thing to happen to me to help with my grieving, and believe you me I needed it and still need it.

"She passed away two years [ago] last week and I'll be the first to admit it is still difficult but this has been fantastic and these people have been so good to me."

Ms Birtwhistle said that, while changes, education and improvements were ongoing, it was an honour to be recognised for their hard work.

As far as we were concerned, we were just doing our job but when it sunk in a bit, I really am proud of us.

Sue Birtwhistle

"We were a bit gobsmacked," she said.

"As far as we were concerned, we were just doing our job but when it sunk in a bit, I really am proud of us.

"I have the confidence to think we might just win it, we've touched some lives."

A total of 47 of Western Australia's most dedicated nurses and midwives have been chosen as finalists across 12 categories for this year's WA Nursing and Midwifery Excellence awards, with winners set to be announced at a gala dinner on May 11.

Health minister Roger Cook said this year's finalists represented all levels of experience and came from public, private, education and community workplaces throughout the state.

"The WA Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards are an opportunity for Western Australians to publicly acknowledge the approximately 38,000 nurses and midwives across the state working in [all] sectors," he said.

"Nurses and midwives are critical to the state's health system and ensure the people of Western Australia receive quality, compassionate and safe care. The 47 nurses and midwives chosen as finalists for these awards are among the best and most dedicated in their fields.

"I congratulate each of the 2019 WANMEA finalists on their achievement and thank them for the valuable contribution they make to the community each and every day."