New program to shape future of aged care education

HammondCare and UNSW have developed an innovative training program which could “shape the future of aged care education” resulting in better care for people in need, thanks to a $715,000 grant from the Federal Government.

Minister for Ageing Mark Butler this week announced 16 grants for universities and aged care services, including HammondCare, under the Teaching and Research Aged Care Services (TRACS) initiative.The first session of Real Cases, Real Time got under way this week with teaching delivered from a live site in HammondCare’s Clinical Training Centre at Hammondville, interacting in real time with five remote sites as far away as Bathurst and the Illawarra.

The funding is for projects across Australia to create integrated aged care teaching centres that combine teaching and learning, research, care provision and service delivery in one location to create a learning environment akin to teaching hospitals.

“By 2050 we expect that more than 1 in 20 working Australians will be an aged care worker,” Mr Butler said. “This means we need more than half a million new workers and we want the best possible learning environment for this wave of students.”

Real Cases, Real Time a 'gigantic' training leap

Up for the challenge is HammondCare’s Chief Medical Officer, Associate Professor Andrew Cole, who for the past few months has, together with Associate Professor Chris Poulos from UNSW, led a team of teachers, trainers, researchers and IT specialists in preparing the first phase of Real Cases, Real Time.

A/Prof Cole described Real Cases, Real Time as a gigantic leap forward as it delivered training in a way that he had not seen before in the aged care space, using a case method tutorial approach.

“As far as I know this is a completely new way of approaching education in aged care and part of what we will be doing is testing how effective it is. We’ve been building towards projects like this in recent years and believe it will help shape the future of aged care training,” A/Prof Cole said.

“The primary teaching space will be at Hammondville with up to five other regional and rural venues linked by video-conferencing in real time meaning we can spread training as never before,” he said.

“The course has 10 sessions on topics relating to older people, which begin with 10 to 15 minutes of teaching from an expert practitioner. Participants then work through a case study, discussing questions relevant to the focus topic for that day.

“This design elicits shared knowledge from all of the participants and grounds their education in the real world of individual people’s experience of health and aged care.”

Care workers knowledge will feature

A/Prof Cole said there were two streams with 10 sessions each – stream one being for the professionally registered aged care workforce including Registered Nurses, GPs and allied health staff. Stream two is for the care support workforce, whose role in aged care delivery is vital.

“Traditionally the knowledge of this second group has frequently been disrespected within the sector, often even by the workers themselves, because they don’t think they know as much as doctors and nurses.

“But they have tremendous knowledge which they may collate and arrange in a different way in their minds. This training will make room for the sharing of this knowledge and provide a conceptual framework for bringing all of that knowledge together within the groups.”

Many of the teachers for the course will be drawn from HammondCare’s health and aged care services such as A/Prof Andrew Cole, psychologist Dr Catriona Lorang, Dementia Centre Director Colm Cunningham, pain specialist A/Prof Phil Siddall and rehabilitation exercise physiologist Natalie Robson, to name a few.

Topics include an ageing overview, the body’s defences against infection, understanding dementia, mobility, pain, nutrition, medications, wound care and end of life care.

Real Cases, Real Time is not just about education, but includes a formal research evaluation conducted by the School of Public Health and Community Medicine UNSW. This takes place after each training session, as well as further evaluation of the whole process, after two complete one-year pilot training rotations have taken place.

A final report on the model will then be presented back to the Federal Government for consideration as a training solution that may possibly be distributed to other aged care providers.