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Issue 19 24/09/12 fortnightly

Theatre & Critical Care Feature Increased obstetric intervention in private hospitals Nursing our mental health New social media rules for nurses and allied health professionals Looking after brain health a no brainer

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Nursing Careers Allied Health - Issue 19 | Page 3 )SSUEp3EPTEMBER We hope you enjoy perusing the range of opportunities included in Issue 19, 2012. If you are interested in pursuing any of these opportunities, please contact the advertiser directly via the contact details provided. If you have any queries about our publication or if you would like to receive our publication, please email us at m&!#4 ./4&)#4)/.n The NCAH Magazine distribution is independently audited by the Circulations Audit Board. Total Audited Print and Digital Distribution: 28,090 The NCAH Magazine is the most widely distributed national nursing and allied health publication in Australia For all advertising and production enquiries please contact us on +61 (0) 3 9271 8700, email or visit If you would like to change your mailing address, or be included on our distribution, please email

Published by Seabreeze Communications Pty Ltd Trading as NCAH. ABN 29 071 328 053. Š 2012 Seabreeze Communications Pty Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be copied or reproduced by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. Compliance with the Trade Practices Act 1974 of advertisements contained in this publication is the responsibility of those who submit the advertisement for publication.

Next Publication: Mental Health Feature Publication Date: Monday 8th October 2012 Colour Artwork Deadline: Monday 1st October 2012 Mono Artwork Deadline: Wednesday 3rd October 2012

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QLD budget catastrophic for nursing and allied health by Karen Keast The secretary of the Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) has described the state’s budget as catastrophic for the health sector.

largely be attributed to uncommon impacts in recent years such as the GFC and the Queensland floods.

Speaking exclusively to NCAH, QNU secretary Beth Mohle said morale among nurses and allied health professionals had been destroyed by cuts announced by the Newman Government on 11 September.

The QNU had a launched a newspaper advertising campaign to protest the cuts, she confirmed. At the time of writing, Mohle was also preparing to join the Queensland Council of Unions protest rally, kicking off at 12.30 on Wednesday 12 September in Queens Park Brisbane, followed by a march to the State Government headquarters.

Mohle also said the workers’ future remained uncertain amid mixed messages over the extent of job cuts; more than 4100 Queensland Health employees would be paid redundancies, the government budget announcement confirmed. However this was not in keeping with a pre-announced figure of 2754 state-wide revealed last week. “Nurses, midwives and health workers have got the Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.”

“It’s vital to get our message out there,” she said. “This is a huge step back for Queensland; not just for workers in the health sector but for the community as a whole.”

“We’re already seeing the effect of the cuts in places like Townsville, which will lose around 45 nurses with around 131 FTEs (full time equivalents) set to go, and a final total of 200 redundancies going forward.” Cuts were also causing ripple effects in the education sector, now suffering from perceptions of career uncertainty. “Already I’ve heard anecdotally of four student midwives who had applied to the Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital and had secured places there, who have now been told that the places are no longer available.” “All over the state we’re hearing stories like this.” Mohle said the budget cuts were an overreaction by the State Government to Queensland’s financial position, which could Page 6 |

QNU secretary Beth Mohle

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Physiotherapists applaud calls for early intervention on MSDs by Karen Keast New Zealand physiotherapists applauded a report that calls for detection and intervention for the in four New Zealanders who suffer musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

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The Fit for Work report states MSDs, such as arthritis, are the leading cause of disability in the country, draining the country’s labour market of valuable skills and costing more than $5.5 billion a year. The report calls for a national action plan and collaborative approach to tackle the issue, which includes the early detection and referral of MSDs to physiotherapists and occupational therapists in a bid to help people return to the workforce.

“Among the working age population they (MSDs) are the second largest category of conditions resulting in sickness and invalid’s benefit payments and are thought to make up a large proportion of workers’ compensation claims,” the report states. “Early detection of MSDs and referral to appropriate care, such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and preferably in partnership with the patient and their employer, will help individuals to return to work as soon as possible and avoid work incapacity in the long term.” For the full article visit Nursing Careers Allied Health - Issue 19 | Page 11

Nurse pens her un-brilliant career by Karen Keast Kristy Chambers would often share stories of her work as a nurse over coffee with friends. But her stories often received a different kind of reaction. “The response to my work stories was usually horrified silence or horrified laughter,” she said. Kristy’s friends suggested she begin writing down her stories. She did, and the end result is a newly published memoir titled Get Well Soon! My (Un)Brilliant Career as a Nurse. “It seemed a shame to let these unique situations and interactions just turn to dust,” Kristy said. “Some of the more traumatic moments I have experienced in nursing have been burned into my psyche, so I suppose writing is also somewhat cathartic, much like talking to your family or partner after a hard day at work.” Kristy’s book details how she fell into nursing, and provides an honest and funny account of her experiences working with patients ranging from drug addicts through to cancer patients and those in emergency. Originally from Adelaide and now based in Brisbane, Kristy has spent almost a decade working as a nurse, working in several hospitals in areas such as oncology, haematology, bone marrow transplant, in a methadone clinic, drug and alcohol detoxification, in clinical research and general medical wards. Kristy said she hopes other nurses will find her memoir entertaining. Page 12 |

“I’ve had work colleagues read it and say that they are going to give it to their non-nurse family and friends to show them what the job is really like,” she said. “There are a lot of universal themes in the book; grief, frustration, the black humour found in extreme situations, but I don’t proclaim to speak for all nurses. “These are just my reflections of my experiences and I’m clearly no Florence Nightingale, but I don’t regret choosing nursing as my career, not even for a second. “I’d like to think that the book might be reassuring for some people, especially to nurses new to the profession. “I felt like a fish out of water at the beginning, but nursing eventually became comfortable for me.” Kristy said it took about a year to write the book, spread out over three years of nursing and general life, and she is now about to embark on long service leave with some wellearned time spent in New York City. “I have already begun writing another book and I am keen to get stuck into it while I have the luxury of free time, but I also plan on doing nothing at all if the urge should take me,” she said. “There are a lot of bagels in NYC and I am determined to eat them all.” Despite the pressures of nursing and the shift work, Kristy said nursing is a profession she loves. For the full article visit

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New research shows increased obstetric intervention in private hospitals by Karen Keast Low-risk women giving birth to their first baby in private hospitals are more likely to have a surgical birth than a normal vaginal birth, according to new Australian research. A study of 691,738 women giving birth in New South Wales’ hospitals between 2000 and 2008 found the rates of obstetric intervention among low-risk women were highest in private hospitals and lowest in public hospitals. The results of the study show private patients have higher rates of induction compared to public patients, at 31 per cent to 23 per cent; instrumental birth, at 29 per cent to 18 per cent; caesarean section, 27 per cent to 18 per cent, epidural, 53 per cent to 32 per cent, episiotomy, 28 per cent to 12 per cent, and lower normal vaginal birth rates, 44 per cent to 64 per cent. The study also found 15 per 100 women in private hospitals had a vaginal birth with no obstetric intervention compared to 35 per 100 women giving birth in public hospitals. The University of Western Sydney study, published in the British Medical Journal’s Open journal, found the continual rise in obstetric intervention rates for low-risk women was “concerning” in terms of morbidity for women and also the cost to the public purse. “The fact that these procedures which were initially life-saving are now so commonplace and do not appear to be associated with improved perinatal death rates demands close review,” it states. “The findings of this study suggest that a two-tier system exists in Australia without any obvious benefit for women and babies Page 14 |

and a level of medical over-servicing which is difficult to defend within a system that is bound by a finite health dollar.” UWS Associate Professor of Midwifery and leader of the study Hannah Dahlen said the study excluded 70 per cent of the population to focus particularly on low-risk women who were aged between 20 and 34, who were not pre-term or post-term and carried babies of a normal weight. “We are trying to myth bust some of these arguments that these women are older and the women are fatter and the women are sicker and the women are asking for it,” she said. “We can’t do anything about the women who are asking for it, and the argument that women are of a larger body mass is correct, they are getting larger but women in the private sector are much more likely to be of a normal BMI.” Dr Dahlen said women need to make an informed choice and the intervention rates of obstetricians should be made public through the government’s MyHospitals website. “Then women can make a truly informed choice and they are starting to do this in the United States,” she said. “Women need to know there are many more options out there if they really want a natural childbirth.” Dr Dahlen said evidence showed continuity of midwifery care for low-risk women with healthy pregnancies produced outstanding outcomes for mothers and babies. “We have got the best evidence in the world now to tell us that’s the gold standard,” she said.

Nursing Careers Allied Health - Issue 19 | Page 15

Flight Nu rse Air Ambu lan Sydney Do ce Base mestic Air Permanen port, Masc t Full Tim ot e

Forget the four white lack of na tur surrounds al light t you in the take this un ique oppo spread you r wings an the skies as Service NS an Ambu W Flight N Every day is your ow n personal my the vast dry stery flight pristine coa dusty plain stal commu through to the snow top mountain s.

My name is Mark and difference every da to the live s of people y I am able to bri definitely no ng my sen in utilizing all chance to get bored rural and remote se NSW locatio of adventure to of my ext ensive nu . My job as a Flig nurse the wo ns. Every rsin ht next. You day is diff rk never kno gain unsur g experience as I Nurse is clinically eren wing who challengin move from you are go passed autonomy g and character mid wife one and can ma s around minute to and that is ing to meet and car ke pa a real e just the rur al and rem for next. There are difference in peo The aircraf some inte ote param t is an ext resting a edic staff. speciality ension of un transferred it. A diverse ran an emergency de pa ge ran rtm of gin en bro g from car t, palliative diac, high ad based medical hospital ward, inte pa risk nsive ca categories access to tients. We attend to over 5,0 obstetrics, surgic state of the al, neona and diagnostic gr encourag 00 cases art tec tal, traum es Contin a uing Profes hnology and equipm a year which is wh y the Am to aged sional De en t, and strong velopment Come and ly supports bulance Se and resear join our de an enviro ch projects. in care for dicated and nm rur qualification al and regional com experienced team of flight nur Nursing or as a Registered Mid munities. You will ses and he nee adult critica wif lp Nursing. Fo l care fields e along with qualif d to be a Registered us to deliver exc ications an r more de Nurse wit limited to Tabone to tailed info h an ad rmation pic Emergency, Cardi d/or extensive exp take to the erienc ac or k up the pho skies. ne or email Cardiothoracic or e in A For more Int our Senio inf r Flight Nu ensiv http://www.a ormation and ap rse, Ma plication mbulance packs go to: au/Emplo yment/Beco Margaret Ta me-a-Flig Phone: 02 bone, Senior Flight ml Nurse 9669 1708 Email: mt abone@am bulance.nsw

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Nursing Careers Allied Health - Issue 19 | Page 19

New social media rules for nurses and allied health professionals by Karen Keast Social media guidelines are being developed for Australian nurses and allied health professionals. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has been consulting with major stakeholders across the 14 national boards and will release a draft social media policy for public consultation in October or November. AHPRA spokesperson Nicole Newton said at this stage it was uncertain whether the social media guidelines will be a generic policy that spans all 14 national boards or whether the boards will each customise their own policy. “Whether they will endorse a common policy is not yet clear,” she said. This is the first time AHPRA has developed a social media policy. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia released an information sheet on social media two years ago for nurses and midwives, which will be replaced with the new guidelines, once completed. “The board is developing a policy in relation to practitioners’ use of social media… and what’s the overlap between private or personal,” Ms Newton said. Feedback from targeted stakeholders to AHPRA’s preliminary consultation paper on its draft social media policy closed on September 14. The early draft has generated widespread interest, particularly on social media. In a statement, AHPRA said the national boards are monitoring feedback closely and will take the issues into account when refining Page 20 |

the draft social media policy before its release for public consultation. Ms Newton said the draft social media policy will be released on the national boards’ websites. “There will be more consultation,” she said. “We are looking forward to significant feedback from the community.” AHPRA partners with the national boards to regulate more than 560,000 health practitioners spanning 14 professions, including occupational therapy, Chinese medicine, medical radiation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, chiropractic, dental, medical, nursing and midwifery, optometry, osteopathy, pharmacy, physiotherapy, podiatry and psychology.

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     Nursing Careers Allied Health - Issue 19 | Page 21

Nurses want answers on plan for cleaners to perform checks by Karen Keast The Australian Nursing Federation is demanding answers from the Federal Government amid reports a trial through a Western Australian aged care provider will include training cleaners to perform the clinical duties of nurses.

to provide a statement in writing that will guarantee that less qualified staff “will never be called on” to perform the roles and responsibilities of registered, enrolled nurses and assistants-in-nursing in delivering quality care to older people living in nursing homes.

The call comes after a media report revealed the government is spending $400,000 to enable an aged care provider to trial nonnursing personnel, such as cleaners, to carry out basic health checks, including taking residents’ temperatures and pulses in a bid to free up nurses to deal with more complex care issues.

“We have also sought further information from them about the project and how it will be delivered – we want to know what it all means,” she said.

A spokesperson for Minister for Aged Care Mark Butler labelled the story “misreporting” but the ANF is calling for further explanation and clarification. ANF assistant federal secretary Yvonne Chaperon said the union is “still concerned”. “I have never heard of up-skilling non-clinical staff to do clinical work – I have never heard anything like it,” she said. “We don’t believe it’s the way to address the critical shortage of aged care nurses that are currently in the sector, which is up to 20,000, and the predicted shortage of aged care nurses. “We need to be delivering quality aged care nurses on the ground, not up-skilling people who aren’t clinically trained. “At the end of the day it is about quality care for older, vulnerable Australians. You can’t dumb it down, you can’t water it down.” Ms Chaperon said the union has put in a request to Mr Butler’s office for the Minister Page 22 |

“We think it’s only fair assistants-in-nursing who know what’s happening projects are running, so they stand in aged care.”

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Mr Butler’s spokesperson said there had been a “misunderstanding”. “No, that’s incorrect,” he said. “The project doesn’t involve training nonclinical staff to do the work of nurses. “They will be training non-clinical staff to do things like health and safety issues…and they will train staff like physios and other health workers, they will be trained to notice things, like cuts, and refer that onto a nurse.” The WA project is one of 26 projects to receive $10.2 million in Federal Government funds to better prepare the aged care workforce to care for older Australians. In a statement, Mr Butler said the projects will tackle many of the daily challenges aged care workers face, such as delivering medications safely, and supporting people with complex needs. For the full article visit

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Nursing Careers Allied Health - Issue 19 | Page 23

Looking after brain health a no-brainer by Karen Keast Nurses have been called to action in a new world-first health program to tackle soaring dementia rates. Your Brain Matters, an Alzheimer’s Australia initiative, is the world’s first publicly-funded dementia risk reduction program and aims to keep the brain healthy by looking after the mind, body and heart. The health program’s launch comes as new evidence shows cutting risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity, by 25 per cent will result in three million fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease across the globe. Almost 280,000 people in Australia have dementia and that figure is forecast to rise to almost one million by 2050. Alzheimer’s Australia national dementia risk reduction manager Suha Ali said the community education campaign aims to also arm health professionals with the latest information and evidence as part of a preventative health strategy. “Nurses have a huge part to play in the preventative health sphere,” she said. “This program is aimed at nurses and other health professionals, particularly with the management of risk factors.” The Your Brain Matters launch coincides with the release of a new evidence paper from Alzheimer’s Australia’s Dr Maree Farrow and Elodie O’Connor which reveals lifestyle and medical factors, particularly in midlife, can impact people’s risk of developing a neurological condition such as dementia. Page 24 |

“Higher levels of mental, social and physical activity are associated with lower risk of developing dementia while cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are associated with increased risk,” Alzheimer’s Australia president Ita Buttrose states in the paper. “It seems midlife is a critical time to address these modifiable risk factors, but it is never too late to develop good brain health habits. “Evidence is emerging that these same beneficial factors can influence the rate of cognitive decline in someone with dementia and that by keeping the person engaged, and effectively managing other medical conditions, their quality of life can be improved.” Ms Ali said nurses and health professionals could access Alzheimer’s Australia’s dementia risk guidelines at the Your Brain Matters website. She said Alzheimer’s Australia’s free iPhone and android application Brainyapp was another tool health professionals could recommend to their patients. “It’s the world’s first dementia riskreduction app,” she said. “It’s a great way for people to find out how brain healthy they are and to make changes and to track how you are going. “So far we have had more than 220,000 people download the app.”

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Nursing Careers Allied Health - Issue 19 | Page 25

Australian pharmacists watch New Zealand pharmacy evolve by Karen Keast Australian pharmacists are monitoring the changing face of pharmacy in New Zealand. New Zealand’s 947 pharmacists have signed up to the controversial three-year Pharmacy Services Agreement in which pharmacists are paid to manage patients on chronic therapies but lose their $5.30 dispensing fee. The new arrangement, which came into effect on July 1, moves pharmacy to a patient-focused payment model and rewards pharmacists for providing support and advice to help patients better manage their medicines and medical conditions. The new model of pharmacy will form one of a series of presentations at next month’s PAC12 congress and exhibition in Melbourne. Pharmaceutical Society of Australia acting president Joe Demarte said Australian pharmacists are watching the change with interest. “I am not sure if it needs to be introduced here but it is something that we would need to keep abreast of,” he said. “It might produce wonderful results and if it’s successful you would have to take that into consideration. “At the moment it’s a new initiative. At the moment, I don’t think we really know how it’s going to go.” New Zealand pharmacists are also forging ahead in the area of in-pharmacy immunisations and while Australian pharmacists are currently not able to provide flu vaccinations, community pharmacy groups are using nurse immunisers to introduce their own flu vaccination programs. Page 26 |

“We think it’s a new role that is emerging and we have got an eye on that as well,” Mr Demarte said. “There’s no reason why a pharmacist, if the pharmacist is accredited, there’s no reason why the pharmacist couldn’t do that. “I think dispensing is still a core function but…there’s lots of professional things that pharmacists can do. “I think it’s still a little way off. I don’t think we will be doing that in the next flu season.” Mr Demarte said the pharmacy profession was evolving at an international level. “I think that there’s enough happening to be able to say that we are in a state of change, a state of flux and I think that governments around the world are looking at ways to get other professions involved in patient care and pharmacy should be no different,” he said. “We have got a lot to offer and our graduates are extremely well trained. There’s no-one that knows drugs better than pharmacists do. It’s just silly not to make use of that, isn’t it? “The PSA sees pharmacists are able to offer a lot more and it is just a matter of working to find where we fit in and value add to the overall result for the patient.” PAC12’s theme, From Vision to Reality, will focus on the changing nature of the pharmacy profession. Hundreds of pharmacists are expected to attend the October 19 to 21 PAC12 event, to be held at the Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre. For more information visit pac

Nursing Careers Allied Health - Issue 19 | Page 27

Nursing our mental health: Scott’s story by Karen Keast Eighteen months ago, mental health nurse educator Scott WT Trueman was working at a small Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) in an Indigenous community in Cape York when he was called to help assist with a “psychotic” young man in police custody. Nurses at the PHC feared the man was dangerous while the police wanted to detain or imprison him. “All of the PHC staff were interstate or overseas generalist nurses who didn’t have any real understanding of the situatedness of Cape York or Indigenous people,” Scott said. “I took this young lad aside. It was a dry community but I could smell stale alcohol on him. “Whilst it took some time to gain a rapport, it was clear that all that had happened was that his father had died about three months ago and he was grieving for him. “He had drunk four bottles of spirits with three other lads. He was calling out his father’s name in traditional language so that his father’s spirit could enter his body, and in entering his body he would become a proud warrior like his father. “It had nothing to do with mental health at all. “He was doing something that was culturally totally appropriate for him in his grieving process. “If I wasn’t there, it worries me that he would have been labelled psychotic and that label would have stuck with him forever, having been recorded. Page 28 |

“Alternatively he could have been detained under the Mental Health Act. “I simply said to him, you are obviously grossly hung-over and I think you should have a glass or two of water and head to bed. “I often reflect upon this as a win for mental health nursing. “Afterwards, I attempted to speak to the PHC staff, but they didn’t want to address or discuss the eventuality, which is consistent with generalist nurses’ attitudes to this type of mental health presentation.” Scott, who works for the Rural and Remote Mental Health Service, a “fly in and fly out service” that visits communities throughout Cape York and the Islands of the Torres Strait, said many generalist nurses often find it difficult to know, or feel confident, in how to approach and care for mental health patients. “They are generally very unsure, very critical of their actions and decisions and very unaware of the excellent work that they have in fact instigated or undertaken in a resource depleted environment,” he said. “I am interested and committed in trying to lift the importance and attractiveness of mental health nursing as part of core generalist nursing, so that when nurses do interact with mental health clients they feel more confident in dealing with these clients on an equal basis.” Originally from South Australia, Scott trained and worked in general nursing and eventually took time out to return to university to study both law and accounting, qualifying as both a lawyer and in accounting, but Scott realised he still hadn’t found his niche.

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“Being interested in people, as human beings; their complexities, world views, diversities and goals at that reflective time in my life, I wasn’t turned on by the bells and whistles of modern generalist nursing and I was becoming more interested in people, people with mental health illness and their integration with society,” he said. “I thought mental health nursing would be a good fit.” Scott graduated with a Diploma in Mental Health Nursing and worked in clinical roles within a range of mental health facilities, and attained a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Nursing and is currently completing a PHD, through James Cook University, in Mental Health Nursing. Next month, Scott begins an exciting new phase in his career – as a nursing and mental health lecturer with James Cook University.


“I like the interaction with mental health clients because so many are, in their own way, engaging, presenting with complex issues, and just trying to understand their world view and where they personally sit with their mental health issues is challenging,” he said. “If one is lucky enough it’s terribly enjoyable to see somebody make the best of themselves in a recovery sense, and despite their mental health illness be able to function as a member of society. “That’s a powerful thing. “Mental health patients are usually stigmatised, marginalised and disempowered from mainstream society,” Scott said.

For the full article visit Nursing Careers Allied Health - Issue 19 | Page 29

Australian paramedics explore new frontiers in ideas by Karen Keast A team of Queensland paramedics are inspiring paramedics around Australia to expand their horizons.

knowledge, ideas and experiences, with the aim of bringing that information back to Australia for the benefit of Australians.

Team Australia EMS, comprising lead paramedic Neil Noble, Amy Michelle Craike, Colin Allen, Gary Berkowitz and Alan Mountford, recently won the 2012 Professional Rescue Competition in Singapore.

“The main aim of this competition and the professional development is going and working with paramedics from around the world and sharing our ideas with them and hopefully get ideas from them to implement in Australia,” he said.

The team has been forging a name for itself internationally after attending the 2011 and 2012 EMS Today Conference and the JEMS Games, both in the United States – and it now has its sights set on returning to the States next year. Mr Noble said other states from across Australia have shown interest in developing EMS teams, and he encouraged paramedics to “expand your horizons”. “There’s a global network of paramedics and emergency service personnel around the world and through social media or physically travelling there’s an invaluable amount of information out there,” he said. “We absolutely love it. For me, it’s really interesting to meet people doing the same work in different countries with different systems. “At the end of the day a sick patient is a sick patient. It’s how people manage it. “The travelling bug has hit and it’s also really great to meet people who do the same work that you do in a different way.” Mr Noble, who is based in Cairns, said the team’s mission was to network with paramedics from across the globe and share Page 30 |

In its first time in the Professional Rescue Competition, the team clinched top honours against teams from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea and China in front of an international judging contingent. The team tested its pre-hospital emergency care in a range of scenarios, including a patient suffering from a cardiac arrest, a snake bite victim, and a car accident with two patients with varying injuries.


Mr Noble said the injuries tested paramedics on their knowledge of the latest research.

Date Proo Agen

“We did exceptionally well – we came out on top,” he said. “It was very tough and it was very interesting to see how the different countries do things to achieve the same outcome.” Team Australia EMS will present to the Annual Conference of Paramedics Australasia in November and it plans to put together a study tour to go to the EMS Today Conference in Washington in March next year. For more information visit Team Australia EMS at

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Nursing Careers Allied Health - Issue 19 | Page 31

New autism definitions to exert potential knock-on effect on allied health by Karen Keast The role of audiologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, speech pathologists and other allied health professionals engaged in providing services to autistic children could be under threat following changes to the diagnostic criteria for the condition. Following the release of the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is used to guide psychiatrists worldwide, a new test could see many children, who might previously have been diagnosed with autism, now classified under a new diagnostic category known as “Social Communication Disorder”. Under current arrangements the new definition would not qualify children for support under a federal government package introduced in 2008. Leading not-for-profit, autism-specific service provider Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) has conducted research that revealed DSM5’s implications for autistic children and their professional carers. Aspect’s study, the first of its kind to be done in Australia, compared how 132 Australian children diagnosed with autism would have fared had they been assessed under the DSM-5 definitions. The results showed 23.5 per cent failed to meet the new criteria, which will require children to exhibit at least five out of a possible seven symptoms, instead of three as at present. Aspect believes the findings could impact funding, which, since 2008, has been Page 32 |

available to the tune of around $12,000 for families, over at least two years, to help provide speech therapy and other treatments for children diagnosed before the age of six. Other elements of the scheme allow autistic children to receive Medicare-funded treatment from audiologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, speech pathologists and others, provided a treatment plan has been drawn up by the time the child is 13. A number of independent studies conducted in the US have found fewer children would qualify for an autism diagnosis under the new criteria, in contrast to field work done by the American Psychiatric Association which predicted no such outcome. For the full article visit

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NCAH Issue 19 2012  

Your Guide to the best careers and training in nursing and allied health