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'To swim or not to swim': the impact of jellyfish stings causing Irukandji Syndrome in Tropical Queensland.

AIM: This manuscript presents both demographic and descriptive data related to a distressing clinical condition known as Irukandji syndrome. Chart audit and observation data were collected to explore trends in patient characteristics and to review the current practices surrounding the management of the syndrome by advanced practice ED nurses.

BACKGROUND: Irukandji syndrome, a known health emergency in northern Australia, causes severe symptoms such as muscle pains, nausea and vomiting, headache and chest pain causing clinical challenges for emergency nurses. Little is written about this condition from a nursing perspective.

DESIGN: A mixed methods case study approach.

METHODS: Data were collected by observation and chart audit from 186 patients diagnosed with Irukandji syndrome between 2001-2007.

RESULTS: Of the 186 patients, 44.1% were local residents and 58.6% were men. Median age of the patients was 27 years (range 16-77). There was a time trend with a greater number of stings occurring out at the Great Barrier Reef than at mainland beaches (p < 0.001). Important results were found regarding waiting times for pain management and intuitive rather than documented assessment practices of advanced practice nursing staff.

CONCLUSION: Irukandji syndrome causes severe emotional distress and acute pain, however, people continue to swim in marine sting environments and fail to make use of available protective clothing such as body suits. Local residents continue to be stung regardless of the educational information available suggesting a review of the current public education campaign is required.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Nurses failed to document assessment processes limiting adequately the ability to assess trends in the patient's condition effectively and treat symptoms efficiently. It is, therefore, timely to review the critical role that assessment plays in clinical care.

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