News

Putting a price on trauma


18 November 2011

Kate Curtis (left) led a 2001 study that dramatically improved trauma patient care.
Kate Curtis (left) led a 2001 study that dramatically improved trauma patient care.

A study that has changed the way specialist trauma hospitals function such as St George, Royal Prince Alfred and the Royal North Shore has won Sydney Nursing School's Clinical Associate Professor Kate Curtis a prestigious Trans-Tasman award.

An internationally respected trauma nurse and researcher, Associate Professor Curtis has been awarded the Frank McDermott Award for her research into 'Trauma Nurse Case Management - improving patient outcomes, communication and resource use'.

Announced today by the National Trauma Research Institute (NTRI), the Frank McDermott Award recognises a project for its excellence and impact.

It is awarded to research completed and published in the last 10 years and judged to have led to the greatest improvements in care of severely injured patients in Australia or New Zealand.

Clinical Associate Professor Curtis led a study in 2001 at St George Hospital in Sydney which evaluated the effect of Trauma Case Management. Patient care at this hospital was (and continues to be) overseen by a trauma nurse specialist, from resuscitation to discharge.

The study which used practice-specific outcome variables such as in-hospital complication rates, length of stay, resource use, allied health service intervention rates and communication effectiveness demonstrated:

  • Trauma Case Management greatly improves the time taken for patients to progress to physiotherapy and social work consultations
  • decrease in the occurrence of in hospital complications such as deep vein thrombosis
  • reduced length of stay, particularly in the paediatric and 45 to 65 years age group
  • significantly fewer pathology tests
  • a reduction of 819 bed days.

"Patient care by a trauma nurse specialist results in significant health benefits to the trauma patient and their families and financial savings to a hospital and the health system," Clinical Associate Professor Curtis said.

The groundbreaking research has since been translated into health policy and stimulated the implementation of the Trauma Case Management model in trauma hospitals around Australia and New Zealand, dramatically improving patient care.

The true cost of treating a major trauma patient is not clearly understood, says Clinical Associate Professor Curtis who is now finalising a multi-centre study aimed at identifying the real cost associated with treatments.

Clinical Associate Professor Curtis is also leading a collaborative research group with members from the George Institute for Global Health and the University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Science. The group's work is focused on identifying the causes of major injury, patient groups and the costs associate with their care.


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Media enquiries: Victoria Hollick, 0401 711 361, 02 9351 2579, victoria.hollick@sydney.edu.au

Kath Kenny, 0478 303 173, 02 9351 1584, kath.kenny@sydney.edu.au