Altered Airway Education: A training program for nursing staff to minimise clinical risk for patients with altered airways in hospital.

Mrs Alanna Bowen2, Miss Amy Cutcliffe1

1Monash Health – Dandenong Hospital, Dandenong, Australia, 2Monash Health – Moorabbin Hospital, Moorabbin, Australia


Aims: Engage nursing staff in consistent altered airway education. Increase understanding of the differences between altered airways in order to provide appropriate clinical management and minimise risk. Reduce the number of adverse incidents involving altered airways.

Method: Speech pathologists developed and facilitated a standardised education program for nursing staff. Data collection included attendance numbers, staff knowledge assessment, and perceived relevance of education and likely changes to clinical practice. Incident reports were also reviewed to monitor practical implementation of the targeted skills.

Results: Data collection and analysis is currently underway: 286 nursing staff have participated in 25 education sessions across 5 sites. Preliminary results demonstrate improved knowledge of attendees, high perceived relevance to clinical practice and a reduction in adverse incidents. Project aims will be evaluated at the completion of the program.

Significance of the findings to allied health: Patients with altered airways (tracheostomy or laryngectomy) are vulnerable within the health system as a result of their altered anatomy. Provision of safe and appropriate care to these patients was deemed a professional development priority given the identified clinical risk. As first responders and 24 hour care providers, nursing staff were selected for a pilot education program. Given the speech pathologists expertise in the management of this patient group, educating other professionals is an important extension of the clinical role. Data collected will inform further development of the program with the view to embed this education ongoing for nursing staff and beyond.


Alanna Bowen is a senior speech pathologist working in Head and Neck oncology with a passion for complex laryngectomy management.

Amy Cutcliffe is a speech pathologist working in Head and Neck care across the inpatient continuum with an interest in training and education