Nikki Johnston wants to stop people dying badly.
The former Orange High School student has embarked on a major project to improve palliative care in residential aged care units.
On Tuesday the project's success helped Ms Johnston, a nurse practitioner, win the inaugural federal Health Minister's Award for Nursing Trailblazers.
She said the trial project was run in Canberra, where she lives and works, and is now seeking government funding to rollout the program across Australia including residential aged care facilities in Orange.
Ms Johnston said after completing her HSC in 1986 she went to Sydney for nursing training and then worked at hospitals in Sydney and aged care in England.
People were living and dying badly in residential aged care.Nikki Johnston, nurse practitioner
She said while working at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital in 1990s she noticed dying people were receiving unnecessary treatment, weren't able to say goodbye to loved ones and weren't talking about the process of dying.
"People were living and dying badly in residential aged care," she said.
Ms Johnston said staff skills and awareness of patients dying needed to be improved, legislation had to be changed about who could administer medications and funding was needed for palliative care.
She said after a pilot study in 2014, the main trial was conducted in Canberra in 2017 involving 1700 aged care residents, of which 600 died during the program.
One nurse practitioner could cover Orange and surrounding areas easily.Nikki Johnston, nurse practitioner
Ms Johnston said the project team was now working with Palliative Care Australia and the program had received $32 million in federal funding.
Ms Johnston said it included having a palliative care specialist doctor or nurse visit aged care facilities monthly to perform what she called Palliative Care Needs Rounds.
"One nurse practitioner could cover Orange and surrounding areas easily," she said.
Ms Johnston said staff at each facility would identify about 10 residents likely to die within the next six months who did not have a palliative care plan.
She said they would develop advanced care plans to anticipate each patient's needs based on their illness, and the palliative care specialist would provide the necessary medications and pain management for staff to administer.
Ms Johnston said staff would also receive mentoring and conflict management training to help them involve families in the planning.
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