Northcott nurses finalists in prestigious industry awards

By Luisa Bustos, 8 April 2020 , Comments

Northcott’s Specialist Supported Living (SSL) nursing team has been announced as a finalist in the 2020 HESTA Nursing & Midwifery Awards for their work, with Northcott Innovation (NI), to improve the quality of life for customers with complex needs.

Our SSL team are disability nurses who provide highly specialised nursing support to customers with complex physical and intellectual disability and significant healthcare support needs.

Nominated in the Outstanding Organisation category, Northcott has been recognised for “developing a program to improve the autonomy, choice and control of people with disability and, ultimately, their quality of life”.

For Northcott Nurse Manager Angela Kardamis, the announcement is an honour.

“The SSL staff feel very proud and honoured to be recognised in the field of disability nursing. This is something that is not often done, however, the energy felt across our workforce has been infectious. It is welcoming news for everyone,” she said.

Angela said the award recognised a project at Northcott’s Condell Park SSL house that was very much a multidisciplinary effort and approach.

Last year, the SSL team partnered with NI – a wholly owned Northcott subsidiary focused on innovative solutions for everyday life – to develop and trial the  ‘Small Things’ project. This initiative explores how to introduce more opportunities for choice into the lives of high-needs customers living in Northcott houses.

NI paired Condell Park’s nursing staff with speech and occupational therapy students who visited the house intensively over a five-week period. The role of the students was to observe the day-to-day comings and goings of the home and identify small moments where an interaction between the nursing team and a customer could be enhanced or fostered to bring about greater choice, control or skill for the customer.

Condell Park’s Nurse Unit Manager, Maree Gemmell (pictured above), explained: “Having the nursing staff, speech pathologists and NI team all working together for the customers was insightful and beneficial to all.

“For us, in particular, it was the first time our nursing staff had been involved in a Northcott project since we transferred across from (NSW Government department) Family and Community Services (FACS). It was great to network with other staff and business streams within Northcott. We felt like we belonged to the Northcott family.”

The students’ fresh perspective, as well as multidisciplinary allied health support, enabled the nursing staff to identify moments where small changes – such as waiting for a customer’s response – could result in improvements in quality of life and quality of care for the customer.

Maree said the project created an almost unconscious, but lasting, change in the nursing team’s attitude towards individual communication and choice.

“Most of the customers at Condell Park SSL have been in residential care for most of their lives.  Naturally when you support people over years, you get to know their likes, dislikes, what makes them tick. But this also takes away the chance for change and individual choice. That’s where ‘Small Things’ came into play,” Maree said.

“It enabled the nursing team to embrace and value the tiniest moments of interaction with customers. Staff became more aware that the things that may seem small to them were actually a huge part of our customers’ lives. It also reaffirmed what our staff have been doing, and highlighted the opportunities for our non-verbal customers to communicate with us.

“As a result, the way staff interact with individuals is more respectful, they ask our customers more questions and actually wait for an answer. ‘Small Things’ has empowered our staff to support customers to embrace their right to have a real choice in what they want.”

Northcott is one of three finalists in the ‘Outstanding Organisation’ category. Winners will be announced in a video awards ceremony on 6 May. Good luck to our Northcott nurses!

Related content

Learn more about Northcott’s Specialist Supported Living services.

Northcott was recognised in the Australian Growth Company Awards in November 2019.

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