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Tallaght University Hospital innovation helps ICU patients

TUH innovation helps ICU patients

“I am passionate about humanising the ICU experience for patients during what can be the most challenging time of their lives", according to Nina Holden, a Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Tallaght University Hospital (TUH). Nina and her team work closely with ICU patients to help them to start their physical recovery.

“I’ve always had an interest in what is novel and creative in healthcare, as well as developing new ways to introduce cutting-edge, evidence-based treatments.” Nina Holden, Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist

Nina continues: “If ICU patients are on a ventilator for a long time, their respiratory muscles - the ones they use to breathe - get weak. They can also experience joint stiffness, muscle weakness and reduced fitness. Physiotherapists play a vital role by helping them maintain and improve muscle strength, mobility and overall function.”

Innovative ideas for helping patients

Nina is currently working on an innovation project to develop the use of respiratory-muscle strength-training in ICU. This training, she says, is “an emerging treatment with a strong evidence base. Respiratory-muscle strength-training programmes are exercises that work to strengthen the muscles used in breathing.”

In addition, Nina and her team are leading out on a project introducing lung-ultrasound for use by physiotherapists, funded by the Adelaide Health Foundation. She explains that “the aim is to develop the use of lung-ultrasound as a key clinical skill within the critical care physiotherapy team. This is a great example of the development of new, novel and innovative clinical skills. Having access to these developments has enabled the team to tailor the management of our patients while they are still in ICU and further develop the effectiveness of our treatment.”

Nina also secured funding from the Tallaght University Hospital Foundation (TUHF) Ignite for Impact Awards to purchase a cutting-edge new virtual-reality headset for ICU patients, describing it as a “novel and exciting idea that helps patients by providing them with the opportunity - once they put on the VR headset - to do more active rehabilitation through the use of games and exercise. This new technology also helps patients to relax by generating a tranquil virtual environment, distracting them from any pain they may experience after surgery or during wound care.”

Nina says her advice to other staff who want to introduce innovative ideas to help patients is to “just go for it. There is lots of support from the Innovate Health team here in TUH to help put ideas into action. We are also supported in navigating the streams of funding available to support the ideas - however big or small. I think it is really helpful to link with your clinical team and it is important to be open to building relationships with staff  in different departments whose help will be essential to ensuring your innovation is successful.”