McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Nursing and medical students win Health Innovation Challenge

By Matt Terry
Published: April 3, 2012
Aaron Lau Yi Ki Tse
Aaron Lau (left) and Yi Ki Tse (right)wrote about a Mississauga program that helps to keep seniors out of the emergency department in a prize-winning paper they wrote for the Health Innovation Challenge. The pair won $1,000 each and the chance at a paid internship with the Health Council of Canada.

"The test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture."
Theologian and philosopher Abraham Heschel

Those words were the inspiration behind a prize-winning paper on helping seniors stay out of the emergency room by Aaron Lau, a second year student of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and Yi Ki Tse, a second year student of the School of Nursing.

The pair, honoured for identifying innovative health practices in their paper, was among more than 220 Canadian students participating in the Health Innovation Challenge, sponsored by the Health Council of Canada.

Lau and Tse focused on a program developed by the Mississauga-Halton Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) in 2007 that coordinates care for seniors between long-term care facilities and hospital emergency rooms.

"There are a lot of programs that work toward preventing people from going to the emergency department," said Lau, "but there really isn’t a solution to giving them the right type of care at the right time beyond the emergency setting."

Known as Nurse Practitioners Supporting Teams Averting Transfers, the program targets the residents of the LHIN’s 27 nursing homes. Prior to the program’s implementation, residents requiring care were often sent to the emergency room for assessment and treatment, leaving them vulnerable to hospital-acquired infections, adverse drug reactions and stress.

Now, nurse practitioners give patients initial assessments and treatment, and refer them to physicians only if needed. The result is fewer unnecessary visits to the emergency room.

Patients, health care providers, family and friends all benefit from the improved coordination of care and expertise provided by nurse practitioners involved in the program, the students wrote. Preventing unnecessary transfers to emergency rooms also reduces emergency wait times for the entire community.

"There’s going to be a lot of people becoming seniors in the near future," said Tse. "This program could serve as a blueprint for reducing the number of people going into the emergency department across the country, and we wanted to raise awareness about it."

Lau and Tse pointed to their personal experiences working in and studying the health-care system as inspiration for the paper’s subject.

"The people who are about to become elderly patients are our parents, or they are our grandparents who are already in the system," said Lau. "So we want to find solutions for them."

Lau and Tse’s support for the program earned them each $1,000 and the chance at a paid internship with the Health Council of Canada.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Level Double-A conformance, W3C WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0