Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT
7 Oct 2011
Professor Sandy Middleton RN PhD from the Australian Catholic University (ACU) and St Vincent's & Mater Health, Sydney and her group of researchers have been honoured with a top international award for their groundbreaking study proving the benefits of specially trained stroke teams on patient recovery.
The announcement Professor Middleton and her fellow Australian had been chosen from more than 200 research submissions from around the world as winners of the prestigious Impact Award was made by Dr Andrew Demchuk, Co-Chair of the 2011 Canadian Stroke Congress held in Ottawa this week.
"The Impact Award goes to the study most likely to directly impact stroke care," Dr. Andrew Demchuk explained when he presented the award, and told the Congress the study by the Australian team of researchers had proved beyond doubt that those who suffered strokes should be admitted to stroke units with comprehensive approaches to staff education, multidisciplinary teams and treatment protocols.
Although a country of just 23 million, when it comes to science and medical breakthroughs, Australia punches well above its weight. Not only does this latest honour pay tribute to Professor Middleton and her team of researchers but yet again puts ACU and St Vincents & Mater Health, Sydney at the forefront of medical research.
A member of the Health Sciences Faculty at ACU, Professor Middleton is also Director of the National Centre for Clinical Outcomes Research (Nursing and Midwifery) as well as Professor of Nursing Research at St Vincents & Mater Health, Sydney. Working in the area of health services evaluation for more than 19 years, Professor Middleton is particularly interested in stroke research, which led to her work involving nurse led interventions to improve stroke patient outcomes.
The results of the five year study, which gathered information from 19 stroke units across Australia and involved 1,700 patients, will be published in the world's leading medical journal, The Lancet next week.
As part of the study, staff at 10 of the nation's stroke units participated in team-building workshops and a staff education program for the treatment of patients with fever, high blood sugar levels and swallowing difficulties. Staff at the other nine stroke units involved in the study did not attend team building workshops or staff education programs but instead continued treatment following Australian stroke care guidelines.
The wide ranging study over the five year period produced remarkable results. Patients in the 10 stroke units where workshop trained staff teams implemented protocols to manage fever, sugar and swallowing were not only found to be healthier but were 16% less likely to die or to be dependent three months after their stroke than those in the other nine stroke units who received care based on current stroke care guidelines.
"These results provide compelling evidence on how to change clinicians' behaviour and also evidence for effective team work and, in particular, good nursing care." Professor Middleton told the Ottawa Congress, adding that the positive effect on stroke patients was larger than any current drug or treatment. This included clot busting therapy she said and pointed out that unlike some drugs and other stroke treatments, the findings from nursing team intervention had relevance for all people who suffered a stroke.
The study also showed that patients who received this type of care in stroke units had fewer episodes of fever, lower mean temperatures, lower mean glucose levels and better swallowing screening practices.
This research has wide implications for stroke victims, which is one of the biggest killers worldwide and the major cause of disabilities.
In Australia stroke remains the second biggest killer after coronary heart disease and the overwhelming cause of disabilities with more than 250,000 Australians currently struggling to overcome paralysis, cognitive impairment and brain damage as the result of a stroke.
Each year 60,000 people across Australia suffer a stroke. Or one every 10 minutes with hospitalisation, rehabilitation and specialist care costs Australia around $2.4 billion each year.
Through nurse trained intervention teams these statistics may change as well as prevent many deaths or long term disabilities.