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  • Empowering nurses with Critical Care Essential knowledge

    Author: Health Times

Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic may not have seen the same influx of patients into ICU as other countries, and for this we are grateful. Nevertheless, it’s essential to upskill the nursing workforce to futureproof their skills in case of a second wave or a future pandemic. 

The role of the nurse has changed with COVID-19 and nurses need the skills to be able to combat the virus on the front line. Designed as an emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak and funded by Safer Care Victoria, the Critical Care Essentials course was developed by the School of Health Sciences’ Nursing Department in just two weeks.

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It supports nurses’ development of essential foundational knowledge to plan, monitor and evaluate nursing interventions for the critically ill COVID-19 patient.

“We have created a syllabus that integrates the COVID-19 clinical practice guidelines with core concepts fundamental to managing respiratory failure and sepsis,” says Professor Marie Gerdtz, Head of Nursing, University of Melbourne.

“This course safeguards the workforce against the worst-case scenario, providing clear up to date information to frontline health workers to detect deterioration so patients can be adequately treated.” 


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St Vincent's Hospital
Frontline Health Brisbane
Occupational Therapist
Talent Quarter PTY Ltd

The target audience is Registered Nurses who may be called to the front line during a pandemic and who need to either upskill or refresh their knowledge.

Nurses like Simone Montebello, who is a Clinical Nurse Educator at Sunshine Hospital:
“I saw the Critical Care Essentials course as a great opportunity to refresh my existing knowledge,” says Simone, who found the online learning a great way to fit the course around her work. 

“The online modules simplified complex components and also validated what I have been doing hands on. If I was required to return to my role in ICU, I would feel much more confident to do so with this training under my belt.” 

Anaesthesia and recovery nurse at St Vincent’s Public Hospital, Natasha Tabone, echoed this sentiment. 

“Undertaking further courses and working full time as a nurse is extremely challenging, but incredibly rewarding especially during the coronavirus pandemic,” she says.

“I’m grateful and privileged to be able to undertake this course, to equip myself with additional skills, to provide a more holistic multidisciplinary approach to patient care, and lend my services to the Australian community at large during this stressful time.”

“Responding to the call of duty and humanity is just what nurses do,” says Simone. “It’s in our nature. It’s great to see our work being exposed, acknowledged and admired. My kids know I’m a nurse, but they didn’t really know what I did until they saw it on TV during the pandemic. They were amazed. I’m not sure the general public really recognized the extent of our daily roles.”

Ten self-paced modules provide online active learning with self-assessment focused on the care of the patient with acute respiratory failure and sepsis. The course is scaffolded by a series of interactive case studies and problem-solving activities. Emphasis is given to critical elements of practice to highlight application of relevant clinical practice guidelines.

"Working with the dedicated and hugely motivated team of interprofessionals to design, develop and implement Critical Care Essentials has been an immense privilege,” says Course Coordinator and University of Melbourne Lecturer, Nick Bridge. 

“We believe it demonstrates the epitome of knowledge translation to practice."

“We have created a rigorous and scalable resource,” says University of Melbourne’s Dr Rebecca Jarden, Course Coordinator.  

“It’s about the reach. We have done everything we can to make sure it’s accessible and that there is good synergy and alignment with clinical practice by engaging the clinicians themselves.” 

By the end of the ten modules learners will be able to:

  1. Apply evidence to the nursing assessment and management of patients with acute respiratory failure and a systemic inflammatory response
  2. Identify core risks and control measures implemented to safely care for critically ill patients


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