USC study calls for improved aged care education - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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USC study calls for improved aged care education

23 Aug 2016

A study by a University of the Sunshine Coast academic has found significant shortfalls in education programs for workers who provide the majority of care to the elderly in nursing homes.

As a result, Senior Lecturer in Nursing at USC’s Fraser Coast campus Julie Martyn has developed what she believes is the first formal education program of its kind for personal aged care workers.

“Personal care workers are the largest workforce in residential aged care facilities, over and above registered and enrolled nurses,” Ms Martyn said.

“They play a vital role by caring for some of our most vulnerable people, yet they are not regulated by the agency responsible for monitoring doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.”

The study was conducted through focus groups, interviews and surveys with managers and personal care workers at residential aged care facilities in Hervey Bay and Bundaberg, and was funded by the Central Queensland, Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast Primary Health Network.

Ms Martyn said her research identified differences in the quality of vocational education for aged care workers, as well as a lack of targeted education programs once they were on the job.

“Ongoing education is mandatory for other health professions to meet their requirements for registration, however there is no impetus for care workers because they are unlicensed,” Ms Martyn said.

“We expect this workforce to be the frontline in providing physical care and also be the eyes and ears of nurses when it comes to looking after older people in nursing homes.

“Continuing education is vital to enable them to practice safely and effectively, with the ultimate goal of improving care.”

Ms Martyn said the curriculum had been designed in consultation with workers and managers in the Wide Bay region, but could be adapted for other regional aged care residential facilities.

“One of the key areas that workers identified for ongoing education was assessment skills to better monitor resident’s specific health conditions, along with their nutrition levels, fluid levels and other vital signs,” Ms Martyn said.

— Clare McKay

Senior Lecturer in Nursing at USC’s Fraser Coast campus Julie Martyn (centre) with 95-year-old Ivy Boxall and advanced personal care worker Louise Gay

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