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PA Hospital staff fighting delirium in ICU patients

30 May 2019

Staff at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) are providing insight into delirium, the condition that currently affects up to 80 per cent of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients that are mechanically ventilated.

Former patient, Glenn Tonges, outreached to the staff after his prolonged stay in ICU to begin looking into ways to ease the effects of delirium after his own experience. 

“Having experienced delirium during my time in intensive care at PAH, I know how challenging, confusing and difficult it is,” he said.

Delirium is identified as a significant complication in ICU patients that is directly connected to higher mortality rates and an impact to quality of life.

Over six months, the PAH ICU Clinical Nurse Consultants and Quality and Safety team formulated new clinical guidelines to assist staff in the recognition, management and prevention of delirium in ICU patients.

ICU Clinical Nurse, Kim Northey, said education is key when it comes to reducing the incidence of delirium in ICU patients.

“As with anything, a program is only as good as the staff who implement them which is why the Quality Team developed and delivered the Cognitive Change Champion Workshop to staff across the network to ensure all new initiatives in combating delirium are well utilised,” she said.

“All initiatives provide a sensory experience for the patient that has proven effective in easing delirium symptoms, these include busy blankets, lavender baths, brochures for family and even suction toothbrushes,” she said.

A balcony space has also been transformed, providing a comforting space for patients escape the stark white walls and noise of a traditional hospital environment.

“The space has been set up to provide a homely, intimate environment where patients can spend time with family, breathe in some fresh air, even contribute to the space following discharge with rehabilitation in the form of threading stag horns or learning how to macramé,” she said.

Not only are patients benefiting from the space, so too are the staff.

“The Wellbeing Space is also providing a sanctuary for our staff to step away from the wards and take a couple of minutes for themselves.”

Through the implementation of these initiatives, PAH staff are able to recognise and identify cases of delirium greater than before that will result in better care for the patient.

The initiative has earned the Quality team recognition by the Magnet Redesignation team as an exemplary achievement in conjunction with the Planetree Philosophy.

Last updated 14 June 2019
Last reviewed 30 May 2019

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