Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Mar-Apl 2016 Contents Frontline view
Aged care from all angles
From her involvement in setting up Australia's first
teaching nursing home to implementing a pioneering
psychogeriatric service for the Northern Territory
Government, Catherine Brown has blazed a trail in
aged care nursing.
Brown has pursued an ongoing interest in nursing leadership
and in 2013 became endorsed as a nurse practitioner in
psychogeriatrics and cognition, one of a small number of NPs in
Australia practicing in this area.
Motivating her work over her 30-plus year career has been a
passion for person centred care and multidisciplinary practice
and a special interest in dementia and mental health.
Starting out her career, Brown took an early interest in
Having just completed her nursing training at St Vincent's
Hospital in Sydney, Brown took up a position with the spinal
injuries unit at Royal North Shore Hospital. It was there,
working alongside occupational therapists, physiotherapists
and social workers, Brown internalised the importance of a
multidisciplinary approach to care.
"I really took on board that you can't piecemeal nursing," she says.
Following a stint in the medical ward at Katoomba Hospital,
Brown worked in a number of aged care facilities, working her
way up to director of nursing, including five years as senior
manager of The Benevolent Society's residential services.
Wherever she worked, Brown saw herself as a change agent
-- working to embed person centred care in organisations and
cultivating an appreciation of further education.
"I would move on every three-to-five years and take on changing
the atmosphere and introducing person centred care," she says.
VALUING CONTINUOUS LEARNING
Teaching and mentoring staff has been a big part of Brown's
career and in her leadership roles she has strongly encouraged
staff to attend conferences and engage with research. Brown is
also a certificate IV trainer in the sector.
"My whole philosophy has been making sure the staff are
educated and skilled enough to push the boundaries, think
outside the square, and be really innovative," she says.
To this end, Brown was involved in setting up Australia's first
teaching nursing home with Australian Catholic University in the
late 1990s, with the aim of encouraging a learning environment in
aged care and staff participation in research.
She has also had a long involvement with professional
associations, the Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG)
and the Psychogeriatric Nurses' Association Australia and has
sought to build a bridge between research and practice, and
between the clinical and social.
A NEW FRONTIER
Pursuing a deep interest in dementia and psychogeriatrics,
Brown moved to the Northern Territory in 2009 to set up a new
psychogeriatric service for the NT Department of Health, a role
that she says changed her. "I became more of a listener than I
was because you would sit under a tree on a milk crate and listen
to stories and understand true person centred care."
Considering the vast geography and limited resources,
mentoring and upskilling frontline staff was a key part of ensuring
the sustainability of the service.
"You would go out [to communities] and give them the
resources and the skills to do person centred care," she says.
"Whether it meant delivering meals on wheels from the back
of a truck or taking a packet of salt so you could teach someone
how to wash out mucky eyes with just some salt and clean water -
it was empowering staff to keep someone in their community."
IN THEIR SHOES
Brown is also passionate about delivering experiential workshops
as a tool for embedding person centred care, and was recently
engaged by Catholic Community Services NSW/ACT to conduct
workshops with 580 of its frontline staff.
Experiential learning is a key part of understanding and practicing
this philosophy because it asks staff to step inside the shoes of a
person with dementia, and to move beyond surface labels, she says.
The simulation workshops encourage staff to feel "the impact of the
confused mind and the challenge of being set up to fail constantly."
She believes this type of training should be mandatory for all
staff and considered "just as important as training in infection
control and outbreak management."
While cost is a perceived barrier, she says the investment is worth
the change in attitudes, communication style and reflective practice.
"It's been a great career. I have enjoyed getting staff though
further education and changing environments and philosophies of
organisations to embrace person centred care." n
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Person-centred care and the
importance of a multidisciplinary
approach to the care of older
people have been motivating
Catherine Brown's 30-year
By Linda Belardi
52 | MARCH -- APRIL 2016 | AAA
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