An education and training program that teaches nurses and physiotherapists to assess lung health using ultrasound has been recognised by the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ).

Cardiac Research Nurse Coordinator Lynda Tivendale with mobile ultrasound device
Cardiac Research Nurse Coordinator Lynda Tivendale with mobile ultrasound device

The multimodal lung and sternal ultrasound education program was awarded the Cardiovascular Nursing Prize by CSANZ at its recent annual conference.

Cardiac Research Nurse Coordinator Lynda Tivendale developed the program to provide cardiovascular nurses and physiotherapists with a tool to support assessment of cardiac patients, in particular monitoring for pleural effusions or “liquid in the lungs” and sternal bones, which are divided during cardiac surgery.

Monitoring is usually performed with a chest x-ray, but a mobile ultrasound device allows nurses and physiotherapists to assess the area and detect common lung pathology at the bedside, it’s non-invasive and the results are immediate. This allows for an earlier intervention with the medical team so the right care can be provided sooner.

Following an initial research study using ultrasound, Lynda realised it was a skill that should be shared and taught.

“It’s that multidisciplinary approach that influences timely management for good patient outcomes,” Lynda said.

“The ultrasound is the 21st century stethoscope, and in a few minutes you’ve got valuable assessment information.”

To date 44 nurses and six physiotherapists have completed the program, which is a mix of online learning, workshops that translate theory to practice, simulated learning and facilitator-led ultrasound ward rounds on 6 South East. The ward rounds have been popular with both learners and patients, who are included in the discussions to encourage them to better understand their health.

In one case, an ultrasound assessment revealed a mobile sternum. The team was then able to provide the right care, in a safer, timelier, more efficient way. It’s stories like these that have attracted interest in the program from overseas, with Lynda having spoken with teams in Portugal, England and the United States.

Lynda and the team are looking at how to expand ultrasound use beyond the ward, for example in home settings where the team on the ground could share the results with the medical team back in the hospital for that same bedside experience. But it’s “baby steps” at the moment, as they look to build more evidence about patient outcomes.

It’s exciting to see the interest and people wanting to get started and learn this valuable assessment tool,” she said.

“This is the future, but we need more people skilled up, and a project that quantifies better patient outcomes following lung and sternal ultrasound”.

Mobile Stroke Unit with Ambulance Victoria paramedic and the RMH Stroke team
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