International recognition for critical care nursing leadership

Improving outcomes for critically ill patients has been a focus of international research for Professor Leanne Aitken and one which has led to her becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Nurses.

The researcher from Griffith’s Centre for Health Practice Innovation and Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, received the prestigious award for demonstrating leadership of critical care nursing as well as research to improve patient care and patient recovery after intensive care unit (ICU).

Raising awareness of sepsis

Part of Professor Aitken’s work has included raising awareness of sepsis. A common and deadly condition, it remains the primary cause of death from infection, despite advances in modern healthcare such as vaccines, antibiotics and intensive care.

Often misunderstood as “blood poisoning,” it is one of the leading causes of death around the world.

Sepsis arises when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues and organs. It can lead to shock, multiple organ failure, and death, especially if it is not recognised early and treated promptly.

Having published her work on how to care for the septic patient in several international journals, Professor Aitken’s work has led to her being on the Council of the Global Sepsis Alliance which aims to raise the profile of sepsis and reduce the numbers of deaths.

“Sepsis is not a term commonly used by the general public and therefore it is not well recognised,” said Professor Aitken. “It is insidious but if caught early, can be treated successfully.”

The second focus of Professor Aitken’s work has been to examine aspects of nursing care within ICU that impact on how a patient recovers when they are discharged from hospital.

“My and my research team’s work has investigated the factors that affect recovery. We have described the frequency and severity of the physical, psychological and cognitive problems that patients experience after discharge from ICU. We are now investigating the interventions that can be effective in improving recovery.

“For example, we need to find effective strategies to improve our management of sedation and how we mobilise patients during intensive care as both these factors can affect recovery. We are also exploring if physical and psychological interventions delivered after ICU might improve recovery.”

Professor Aitken said she is honoured to receive such a prestigious award. “I am delighted to be recognised for my work on an international level and to see that it is now influencing nursing care practice around the world.”

At the same time, she has also been appointed an Honorary Ambassador of the World Federation of Critical Care Nurses (WFCCN) in recognition for her outstanding contributions to critical care nursing.