Armidale Hospital's Aged Care Emergency Service proves successful for region's elderly patients

It may not be a well-known role, but it’s making a huge difference across the region since its rollout last year.

SPECIALIST NURSING: Armidale Hospital ASET nurse Michelle Widdison has been in her role since the program officially rolled out in Armidale 12 months ago. Photo: Rachel Baxter.

SPECIALIST NURSING: Armidale Hospital ASET nurse Michelle Widdison has been in her role since the program officially rolled out in Armidale 12 months ago. Photo: Rachel Baxter.

It’s the Aged Care Emergency Service (ACE) and Aged Care Service in Emergency Team (ASET).

Armidale Hospital ASET nurse Michelle Widdison is in charge of patients 70 years and over and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients 55 and over, in the emergency department. 

“This has been around for quite a while but this program officially rolled out 12 months ago (in Armidale),” she said.

Mrs Widdison’s job is to give patients from aged care facilities triage over the phone – to see if they need a transfer and then provide care in emergency. 

“Basically the whole goal of ACE is that if the patient doesn’t need transfer to the emergency department, we want to treat them in their home which is a residential aged care facility,” she said.

“The emergency department isn’t an ideal place, particularly for elderly people and particularly for elderly people that are confused.”

Mrs Widdison liaises with nursing home staff before a decision is made whether or not to transfer the patient.

“Nursing staff have an aged care manual with them with algorithms and flow charts to give them information on what they need to do first,” she said.

She said the process not only helps the aged care facilities, general practitioners and the emergency department – but also takes pressure off NSW Ambulance.

“It is a collaborative team that is working together to make sure we get the best outcome for these elderly patients,” she said.

“I’ve been here since 2004, originally from Wollongong.

“I was working with the acute pain service here for about five or six years and I’ve been a clinical nurse specialist on the surgical ward for 14 years.

“There was an opportunity with this role and initially it had more hours which was of interest to me.

“I love it and I really like that it’s an autonomous role and I can dedicate my time to this particular age group.

“I may get five phone calls from a residential aged care facility, and only three of those patients be transferred.

“That’s the goal of ACE and that’s what we want to see.”