Respiratory physio receives excellence award for developing tracheostomy training tools

Claire Fitzgerald, a clinical specialist respiratory physiotherapist at London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, has received the trust’s Research and Development Excellence Award.


Miss Fitzgerald was recognised for her work in developing pathways and learning tools that have improved care for tracheostomy patients across the trust and in the community.

Following the 2014 merger of the trust with Ealing Hospital, it became evident that there were wide variations in levels of staff training and care across three hospital sites – Central Middlesex, Northwick Park and Ealing.

‘We recognised that there were wide differences across the three sites, which was of concern as we should all be speaking from the same page,’ Miss Fitzgerald told Frontline.

As a result, she set up a tracheostomy steering group across the organisation including nurses, specialist respiratory physiotherapists, ear nose and throat specialists, maxillofacial consultants, anaesthetists and speech and language therapists. She also contacted senior nurse leaders and quality improvement staff across the trust to ensure the work maintained a high profile.

E-learning and video guides

The initiative focused on tracheostomy competences and training across all aspects of patient care from emergency, to care bundles, and discharge care including tracheostomy passports for patients.

As the work progressed, she realised that some staff were not receiving updates and training around tracheostomy care and management. And she found that some patients had been discharged without proper community follow up.

Miss Fitzgerald developed an interactive tracheostomy e-leaning resource and annotated video learning guides with the help of colleagues on issues such as suction, tracheostomy tube cleaning and cleaning stoma sites.

Each hospital site used different competency documents so her work also involved developing systematised documents that could be used by different professions.

The project also included updating equipment ordering codes and training documents for patients and carers.

Community study days

In the care homes and other community settings, she found that some staff were not familiar with tracheostomy care leading readmission to hospital. ‘As a result we set up regular community study days to keep up on competencies which have become a permanent feature across the trust’s catchment area,’ she said.

‘The work has improved staff confidence among those who are less likely to see tracheostomy as there is now a resource they can access.’

Miss Fitzgerald stresses that the project has been very much a team effort, where she has acted to bring together all relevant parties and drive the agenda.

‘I was really shocked and surprised to receive the award. It was nice to be nominated in the first place as I was up against two teams and I would like to thank the two people who nominated me; consultant respiratory physiotherapist Maria Buxton and Sangita Patel, clinical director of therapy services.’



Two other physiotherapists were also finalists in the excellence awards. Jill Stokes, left, a highly specialised physiotherapist in the trust’s vascular team, was nominated in the Heart Hero category while physiotherapy manager Rachel Burton, right, was nominated for the Women’s and Children’s Services award.

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