ACU (Australian Catholic University)


Issue 8, Autumn 2013

Research bites

The heart of cardiac care

Investigating changes to nursing practice is at the heart of the St Vincent’s Centre for Nursing Research (SVCNR) – a joint venture between ACU and St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne.

SVCNR – led by ACU Professor Linda Worrall- Carter and a team of committed researchers and clinicians – has been involved in a study focusing on Aboriginal health and heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. Rates of cardiovascular disease are up to three times greater in Indigenous people than in the general population and they experience lower rates of treatment. They are also more likely to have cardiac complications later in life.

ACU research fellow and Cardiac Nurse Karen Daws, together with Aboriginal Liaison Officer Mandy Punch, are conducting research into improving cardiac care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at St Vincent’s Hospital. Their aim is to establish a culturally safe space for Aboriginal cardiac patients – helping them to develop confidence in the hospital environment and its support services.

Ms Daws said many Aboriginal people were not comfortable in hospital environments due to negative experiences in the past.

“Mandy and I are trying to change all that by building a model of best-practice care with Aboriginal cardiac patients,” she said. "At its heart it is a quality improvement process. If we can improve our hospital processes, then word of mouth will travel and this will improve the uptake of treatment and rehabilitation.”

Ms Punch said the study, which is in its final stages, was already showing promising results.

“A highlight of the project is the increase in the number of Aboriginal patients attending cardiac rehabilitation programs. Sixty-one per cent of patients seen by Mandy and me have attended cardiac rehabilitation.”

The project has received funding from the Department of Health and is also supported by the Heart Foundation and Victorian Aboriginal Health Service.

Academic appointed to ACB

Dr Roger Lord, Lecturer in Medical Science at ACU has been appointed as a member of the Advisory Committee on Biologicals (ACB).
The ACB provides independent medical and scientific advice to the Minister for Health and the Therapeutic Goods Administration about cell and tissue therapy products.

As one of 12 committee members, Dr Lord will provide expert scientific advice to the board to help protect the Australian public from unsafe biological products.

With a background in both infectious disease and organ transplantation, Dr Lord’s research has already made significant input to health improvement with his contributions to the development of a vaccine against malaria and in immunological mechanisms involved in liver transplantation tolerance. Dr Lord emphasised the importance of this appointment, both individually and for ACU.

“The appointment is an opportunity to see the latest biological advancements which will ensure my teaching in the Faculty of Health Sciences is at the cutting edge of developments” he said.

“Often in science, the developments are faster than the law. This is a unique opportunity to see what is coming on to the market and I’m in a role that allows me to help safeguard the health of the Australian community.”

Dr Lord is currently involved in research in the emerging science of proteomics and treatment strategies for chronic wound healing and provides expertise in the fields of organ and tissue transplantation and infectious diseases.

Dr Bronwen Neil, Burke Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical Latin at ACU, has been awarded one of the highest honours for achievement in the humanities in Australia, with her election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Scholar receives high honour

An internationally renowned scholar, she has written for and contributed to numerous publications, and is a recognised authority on fifth-century pope Leo I of Rome, Gregory the Great, Maximus the Confessor and Anastasius the Librarian.

Dr Neil, who is based at ACU’s Brisbane Campus, is proud to be elected a Fellow at the Academy’s annual general meeting in December.

“It was fantastic to have my work validated by my peers; to be included in such a prestigious group is an unbelievable honour,” she said.

“To be recognised on this level is a privilege which will allow me to develop my research internationally.”

Dr Neil’s publications have a wide chronological spread, from the fourth to the 10th centuries, and cover a variety of disciplines including translations from Greek Scholar receives high honour and Latin, exegesis, history, hagiography, philosophy and liturgy.

“I am currently getting to the end of an Australian Research Council funded project on crisis management in late antiquity, analysing bishops’ letters to see how the Church managed various types of crises such as poverty, plague, natural disaster and religious conflict.”

Dr Neil has served on the executives of the Australian Society for Classical Studies and the Australian Early Medieval Association and as Treasurer and current President of the Australian Association for Byzantine Studies. The Australian Academy of the Humanities advances knowledge of, and the pursuit of excellence in, the humanities in Australia for the benefit of the nation.

Competitive grant won for workforce development

ACU together with affiliate partner RSL LifeCare, has been awarded a $450,000 grant under the Federal Government’s Teaching and Research Aged Care Services initiative.

ACU has worked with RSL LifeCare for the past eight years under the stewardship of the Chair of Ageing, Professor Tracey McDonald, using practice-driven research to improve conditions for older adults in care as well as students on placement in aged care.

“Through our efforts, workforce development and career pathways have received a boost which will enable more students to experience best practice in residential, community, sub-acute and palliative aged care”, said Professor McDonald.

“We hope that students will come to regard working with older adults and veterans as an attractive nursing career option.”

Introduced by the Department of Health and Ageing, the grant is designed to support providers of aged care to build workforce capacity and capability. Minister for Ageing Mark Butler said that it is forecast that more than 1 in 20 working Australians will be an aged-care worker by 2050.

“This means we need more than half a million new workers and we want the best possible learning environment for this wave of students”, Mr Butler said.

“It is critical that as the population ages, we ensure we have a highly skilled workforce and that the career path is attractive to those considering a future in the aged-care industry.”

The grant will allow the partnership to build on current efforts to integrate research and Competitive grant won for workforce development practice in the workplace, support aged-care workers and knowledge development, and establish procedures and protocols for best practice in aged care.

The partnership also received more than $50,000 in funding from Health Workforce Australia to develop a flexible model for clinical placement. This will remove some of the current barriers for students completing clinical placements.

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