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A new training program designed to prevent allergic and anaphylactic reactions in patients at hospitals has been met with praise by clinical nursing specialists, who believe it will be an invaluable resource for nurses in all practice areas.

The free federally funded online training initiative, All about Allergens for Hospitals, was recently launched as part of the National Allergy Strategy (NAS), which is jointly led by the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia.

It is touted as the “first nationally standardised training for food allergen management for food service in Australian hospitals,” and the training, which is available on the Food Allergy Training website, follows similar NAS-led initiatives targeted at the food services sector.

While this training is also directed at hospital kitchen staff, it is also designed for other staff, including nurses.

According to both Briony Tyquin, a Clinical Nurse Consultant at Westmead’s Children’s Hospital and Manager of the NSW Anaphylaxis Education Program, and Valerie Noble, who is the Allergy Clinical Nurse Specialist at Perth Children’s Hospital, the training will be of high importance to a broad cross-section of nursing and midwifery staff.

“We need to make sure that when any patient comes into a hospital, with allergies, that they are all treated the same, regardless of which state they are in,” Valerie explained.

“By providing this training, we can get everyone up to the same level of providing the same safe care to everybody.”

Briony expressed a similar level of appreciation for the consistency the training now offers, adding that the broader community doesn’t necessarily understand the significance of the issue.

“It doesn’t have to cover the individual hospital policies, but the general background behind it [food allergy management] is really important,” Briony said.

“Most people in the public really just don’t understand the seriousness of food allergy and we just want to improve food safety, and prevent allergic reactions from happening in hospitals, where people think that they’re safe.”

Both nurses entered into the specialty for different reasons. Briony, who has worked in paediatrics most of her career, developed an interest in allergies and anaphylaxis after her own child had food allergies.

Meanwhile, Valerie’s interest originated after early career work with patients at a Day Treatment facility undergoing food challenges, before involvement research work looking at Lupin consolidated her interest in allergies as an area of specialty.

While both are invested the public and professional education aspects of their work, they believe the NAS training will be an important tool in shifting the professional conversation and limiting the damage caused by the potential mismanagement of food allergies within hospitals.

“Our hospital has already got a lot of things in place, but this is so that every nurse in Australia can do the same training and understand what’s needed,” Briony explained.

Alluding to the case of Louis Tate, a 13-year-old Victorian whose death of an anaphylactic reaction to food produced in a hospital setting, Valerie added that she believes the ideal outcome from this focus on training is that an incident like that simply doesn’t occur again.

“Our outcome is that everybody is recognised and treated accordingly to their allergies and that we’re not causing more harm when they come in,” she said.

“I’d love to see that nobody actually dies from being given the wrong food.”

For more information on the All about Allergens for Hospitals online training, interested members can read more at the Food Allergy Training website