Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jan-Feb 2014 Contents POSITIVE PARTNERSHIPS
Much like the peak body response,
many aged care providers, often large
multi-site operators, have been forming
partnerships with universities and
training providers to provide structured
clinical placement programs.
In Western Australia, the aged and
community care operator Bethanie
is coming to the end of a three-
year, Department of Health-funded
collaboration with two universities -- Edith
Cowen and Murdoch.
Tracey Russon, manager of capability
at Bethanie, says the partnership
program has enabled Bethanie to
employ a clinical placement coordinator
to liaise with the universities and the
individual facilities. The coordinator
has since broadened the network and
Bethanie now also provides placements
to students from other universities,
namely Curtin and Notre Dame, as
well as to those in the VET sector. In
addition it provides work experience for
high school students.
During the course of the program,
Bethanie has accommodated 400 nursing
students each year and some 150
certificate III and IV students.
As well as providing for the dedicated
coordinator, the placement program
has enabled Bethanie to expand its
complement of clinical supervisors.
"We went from having three clinical
supervisors in our organisation to having
45," says Russon. "They are the go-to
people for the students at the sites.
The supervisor ensures it's a structured
process of learning for the students."
As part of the program, students are
provided with an induction pack, which
sets out information on future training
opportunities and paid and voluntary
roles within the organisation. It also
includes evaluation forms the students
are asked to complete.
Russon says there have been numerous
positive benefits from the program.
"Most students who come to us have
never seen aged care as a viable career
but they are surprised by how much they
learn and the complex healthcare needs
they can get exposure to.
"Bethanie has an occupational
therapist, physiotherapist and activity
assistant at each facility so students have
exposure to an interprofessional learning
environment," she says.
Bethanie's experience appears to
lend weight to the argument that, if
done properly, quality clinical
placements can change negative
perceptions and encourage graduates
to work in the sector.
Following their placements, some
45 students studying to be RNs or ENs
picked up casual work as carers in
Bethanie facilities and some of those
remained working with the provider after
they graduated, says Russon.
"It's a great long-term recruitment
strategy," she adds. n
on their placement and
the expectations of all the
stakeholders should be
established, she says.
While it's acceptable for
students to be paired with care
assistants when they are learning
about hygiene and nutrition,
they must also have professional
mentorship and supervision from
RNs and university staff for more
complex and advanced tasks,
Echoing this, Debra Thoms, CEO of the
Australian College of Nursing, says that
nursing leadership plays a critical role in
addressing the issue.
"To date there has been insufficient focus
on developing the leadership capabilities
of clinical managers in aged care which is
needed to foster positive clinical supervision
and mentoring," she says.
Concerted efforts are required to
develop well-coordinated and structured
programs and to provide quality student
supervision and mentoring, Thoms says.
"Developing benchmark models for clinical
placements in aged care have also been
identified as having potential for improving
clinical placement experiences."
A common view among stakeholders
is that there is great potential for
an industry-led approach to driving
improvements in clinical placements for
students in aged care.
To that end, aged care peak bodies
have begun collaborating with universities
to help provide coordinated and quality
placement programs in their regions.
For example, Leading Age Services
Australia Victoria, provides clinical
supervision within member organisation
facilities for undergraduate nursing students.
In 2014, LASA Victoria will be funded
by Monash University to provide clinical
supervision for a total of 104 students for a
total of 720 days over an 18-week period.
Dr Pamela Johnson, nurse placement
programs coordinator, says the benefit
for participating facilities is that LASA
Victoria provides the regular clinical
supervision on site during the placements.
As this program runs in tandem with
the Aged Care Graduate Nurse Program
coordinated by LASA Victoria, Johnson
says the supervisors are highly qualified
and experienced in aged care issues.
"They're up to scratch with the
advanced caregiving and nursing skills
required now in the aged care sector. For
the undergraduate nurse, the benefit is
they have a reliable, knowledgeable and
capable supervisor," she says.
This advanced quality in supervision
can only enhance the value of a placement
in aged care, providing long-term benefits
for the aged care sector and most
importantly for older people who require
professional assistance to manage the
complexity and comorbidity of health
related issues, says Johnson.
Often they go into nursing to
'save lives', but they don't seem
to realise nursing is about caring
and healing, rarely is it about
saving lives. And unless you
go and work in midwifery or
paediatrics you will be working
with older people, because
they're the greatest users of
health services," says Neville.
Students also see aged care
as "low tech", a sector lacking in
career pathways and professional
development opportunities, and one offering
lower wages, she says.
These negative perceptions are also
borne out in research conducted by the
Riverina Interdisciplinary Clinical Training
Network (ICTN), Murrumbidgee Local
Health District, Charles Sturt University
and Health Workforce Australia.
That research, which was released in
May, was based on interviews with a range
of key stakeholders, case studies, surveys
and a review of the literature.
The researchers identified a negative
view among students and some educators
of aged care as an option for either a clinical
placement or long-term employment.
It reported: "Negative views of ageing in
general, lack of infrastructure in aged care
facilities to support clinical placements
and a shortage of clinical supervisors and
teachers in aged care. The relatively low
proportion of RNs compared to ENs and
other VET sector trained staff in aged care
facilities limits the capacity of facilities to
have RNs supervising nursing students."
The research further noted that the
use of agency nursing staff in facilities also
limited supervision capacity.
STRATEGIES FOR CHANGE
Neville acknowledges there are "pockets
of excellence" when it comes to quality
placements in aged care, however she
believes the aged care sector is not a good
"The sector doesn't do a very good job of
promoting the positive aspects of what it's
like to work in aged care; that there is also
a lot of very complex care going on. That's
something that appeals to the brighter
graduates. They want to go into areas that
are going to be challenging and they're not
seeing that in this particular industry."
Beyond that, she says the response
must be "multi component".
"We've got to attack it from all angles
- from what goes on in the undergraduate
curriculum, as far as content and the
clinical experience, to who is teaching
in the universities. You need people with
passion and expertise. Students need
Preparation and orientation is also
crucial, she says. The students, the
supervisors, the university educators
and even the residents must all be
prepared before the clinical placement
There must be clear objectives
for what the student aims to achieve
Dr Christine Neville
www.australianageingagenda.com.au | 35
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