During the 2020 coronavirus pandemic the need for workforce flexibility and additional oncology inpatient care support was recognised at Bendigo Health. Approval was sought and obtained for an oncology ward liaison nurse position.
To evaluate the impact of the ward liaison nurse (WLN) on clinical service improvement and provide evidence for continuation if beneficial.
A mixed methods approach was applied to this quality improvement activity, incorporating retrospective and prospective data collection across patient care and service indicators June- August 2020. Qualitative feedback was sought from 18 clinical stakeholders using a survey monkey tool.
During seven weeks the oncology WLN intervention was found to improve timely completion of discharge summaries and reduce unrostered junior medical staff overtime. Feedback from clinical stakeholders highlighted improved coordination of patient care and benefits of complementary expertise. Role specific attributes included central venous access device care, education of ward nurses and junior medical staff on cancer patient care, referrals to allied health, ward nursing handovers, and inpatient chemotherapy education sessions. Improved efficiency allowed more medical time for family updates critical during lockdown.
Benefits were seen in spite of increased inpatient numbers, multiple understaffed days due to junior medical staff leave, and further lockdowns with visitor restrictions reinforced over the period.
The oncology WLN has demonstrated initial positive impacts during a short pilot period at Bendigo Health and the position and evaluation is ongoing. Updated 3 month results will be presented at COSA 2020 to substantiate the continuation of this position to improve workforce stability and continuity of patient care as challenges from the coronavirus pandemic continue.