Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2015 Contents Robin Harvey
Our collective challenge, particularly
in a time of policy and funding
uncertainty for the tertiary education
sector, is to bring ageing to the forefront
of education, writes Robin Harvey.
HOW WILL AUSTRALIA meet the future challenges of an
ageing population in the areas of health and aged care?
We can't afford to do more of the same. Leadership from
those with expertise in ageing and aged care, from clinicians
and care workers to managers, service providers and older
people's representative groups will be vital. Educating this
diverse workforce to develop leadership capacity will be a
key element of meeting these challenges.
Amongst the criticisms of the Intergenerational Report
2015 were that it assumed stability over time of certain
current trends and did not consider alternative scenarios or
the impact of potential changes on projections. We cannot
afford to think narrowly along familiar lines or see the future
direction as a dichotomy between this or that policy, rather we need to
be able to collaboratively generate and examine a multiplicity of options
that will lead us to improved policy, service models, quality of care,
sustainability of service provision and greater understanding of the
complex processes of ageing.
Such a challenge requires a workforce with specialist knowledge of
ageing and aged care, however knowledge is not static. It is vital for
our workforce to also have the capacity for critical analysis of policy
and the ability to reflect on their own professional and current service
practices. Leaders in ageing will need a commitment to continuing
evidence-based knowledge development and the flexibility to adapt and
create new ways to improve services as a result of changing research
knowledge, experience and contexts.
An international project, the Global Independent Commission on
Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century, identified two
key aspects of education necessary to enable health professionals
to responsively improve quality and equity of healthcare. These were
transformative learning and interdisciplinary education.
Transformative learning builds on the levels of informative learning
(knowledge and skills based, expert), formative learning (culture and
ethics, professional) to develop leadership attributes. Transformative
learning creates capacity for searching, analysis and synthesis of
information for decision making, effective teamwork across disciplines
and creative adaptation of global resources to address local priorities.
This educational framework is highly applicable to the education of the
health workforce in ageing.
In the aged care sector, ACSA CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly,
has led a strong call for substantial funding in the 2015 Commonwealth
budget for sector-wide leadership development, arguing this as a key
element to addressing the workforce issues in aged care. This is an
important direction, and leadership development is also vital
in the broader and inter-related ageing, health and human
services sectors. Further robust advocacy in partnership
across a wider spectrum may be required to convince
governments of the value of investing in educating leaders
across the interdisciplinary field of ageing.
AAG's stated goal is to "expand knowledge of ageing
in order to improve the experience of ageing." Supporting
research and education about ageing is our core business
and AAG has a proud tradition in this regard since 1964.
The translation of evidence from research into practice has
long been identified by the organisation as a significant
challenge. Generating alternative ideas for how this may
be done better and on a broader scale has exercised several AAG
workshops over recent years.
It may be that working together, in partnership with a wide range
of stakeholders with an interest in the education and training of health
professionals and aged care workers, to lobby for policy and funding to
support education for leadership across this broad field will create the
conditions for more effective ongoing translation of research knowledge
into practice. Clinical, professional, policy, management and direct care
staff who have the skills to lead and adapt evidence-based practice will
play a vital role in improving the experience of ageing.
We already have some examples of innovative training programs
in the aged care sector, training partnerships and pathways between
universities and VET providers and between these and service providers
and innovative interdisciplinary gerontology courses at universities
across Australia. However, we also have problems of inconsistent
quality across VET level training and systemic under-development
of education on ageing across the tertiary sector. The challenge,
particularly in a time of policy and funding uncertainty for the tertiary
education sector, is to bring ageing to the forefront of education, not
just within the aged care sector, but within health, human services,
policy and management disciplines and professions across multiple
sectors and within/across VET, workplace and university systems.
Access to affordable and appropriate entry level and specialist
gerontology education within an integrated education and service
system is a key challenge that we need to work towards.
Working together across sector and discipline boundaries will
be vital to achieving education for leadership within ageing. n
Robin Harvey is vice president of the AAG Victorian division
and course director/lecturer, Master of Gerontology,
Charles Sturt University.
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