Purpose: A multidisciplinary allied health team has worked in The Townsville Hospital Emergency Department for seven years. Patients are referred to the allied health team by medical and nursing staff with the aim of reducing patient admission and improving patient outcomes. However, the type and number of referrals received by the allied health team suggest there is a lack of detailed interdisciplinary knowledge by the referrers. Therefore, the Emergency Department Allied Health Team surveyed other emergency department health professionals to ascertain their knowledge of allied health roles. The results will be used to develop education sessions to fill gaps in knowledge. Methods: A cross-sectional survey consisting of 22 true/false statements and demographic questions was developed by the Emergency Department Allied Health Team. Questions described some of the common triggers for referral to physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, and pharmacy staff in the emergency department at the Townsville Hospital. The survey was distributed opportunistically to nursing, medical and physician assistant staff at handover or education sessions. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the data and comparisons used chi squared tests. Results: The response rate for the survey was 63% (n=154), including 52 doctors (65%), 95 (59%) nursing staff, 3 physician assistants (100%), and 4 who did not state their discipline. Preferred responses were low for questions about occupational therapy’s ability to do home visits up to four weeks post emergency department discharge (37.7%), physiotherapists’ necessity to perform mobility assessments (24.7%), identifying APINCH acronym as mnemonic for high risk drugs (35.7%) and the correct application of “close the gap” prescriptions (27.9%). Staff with more experience and prescribers were more likely to give the preferred response. Conclusions: Some gaps exist in doctors’, nurses’, and physician assistants’ knowledge of the roles of allied health in an emergency department. The knowledge gap decreases as staff experience in emergency departments increases. Therefore, for the allied health team in our emergency department to work at full scope of practice, these knowledge gaps need to be addressed. Our challenge now is to provide sustainable education on the role of allied health in a busy emergency department full of shift working and rotating staff being pulled by a myriad of contrasting priorities.

Author Bio(s)

Bede Michael Ashley, MHlthServMt (Monash University), B Phty (University of Otago). Bede was a senior physiotherapist and part-time team leader in ED and now works as a senior physiotherapist in the Persistent Pain Clinic

Tilley Pain, (PhD), Tilley is a Research Fellow at THHS and an Adjunct Associate Professor at James Cook University. Her role is to build research capacity of allied health professionals within the health service.

Heidi Clark, BSW (James Cook University). Heidi is a Social Worker with several year’s experience in the emergency department. This is her first research project.

Ellen O’Connor, B Occ Thy (James Cook University) Ellen is an occupational therapist who worked in the ED on a rotational basis. While in ED, Ellen developed a model of care for home visits for ED patients. She now works in palliative care.

Liana Schnierer, MSW (James Cook University), GCCO (Turning Point), GradDipRehabCouns (University of Tasmania), BA (psych) (University of Tasmania) Liana is a Senior Social Worker and Deputy Director of the Social Work Department. She is currently on maternity leave.

Kathryn Laspina, B Pharm (James Cook University), BNSc (James Cook University) Kath is a pharmacist with many years of health service experience as a nurse and pharmacist. This is her first research project.

Meghan Esme Fitzpatrick, B Pharm (University Queensland), Postgraduate Certificate Clinical Pharmacy (University Queensland). Meghan is a pharmacist who has worked in the ED for many years and is dedicated to defining the role of pharmacy in ED to assist patients transition to community.


The authors would like to thank the other members of the Emergency Department Allied Health Journal Club and staff and management of The Townsville Hospital Emergency Department





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