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Aged care leaders guide next generation

Across clinical and management areas, mentoring is becoming increasing popular in aged care

From clinicians to aspiring leaders, aged care facilities are tapping mentors to pass on their knowledge and expertise.

At Holy Spirit Dubbo, nurses in the new graduate program and students on placement from the neighbouring university are buddied with registered nurses at the aged care facility.

The RNs share their experience and knowledge with their lesser-qualified counterparts to help them develop their skills, confidence and interest in aged care nursing.

All of the registered nurses at Holy Spirit have undertaken mentoring and preceptor training, says Di Thomas, residential manager at Holy Spirit.

“The RNs had initial training and now they just do it as part of their role,” Thomas tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

The training was part of a Charles Sturt University project launched in 2015 to develop a mentoring program for student nurses on aged care placement relevant to both staff and students. It aimed to foster a culture of acceptance of students and mentoring skills among facility staff and thereby enhance the attractiveness of working in aged care.

Maree Bernoth

The project is led by Maree Bernoth, community engagement lead at CSU. It came about because the university and aged care facility wanted to extend their relationship by offering mentoring and preceptorship to students on clinical placements, says Bernoth.

The successful program involves the university holding tutorials in the facility. Nursing staff become part of the teaching team as well as mentors, giving students individual attention and feedback on the floor.

“We have this wonderful partnership where the nursing staff, academics, residents and the managers all become a team to teach and support these students,” Bernoth tells AAA.

Staff involved at the aged care facility receive a sense of satisfaction and feel valued, Bernoth says.

“They feel they are not just doing the same things every day; they have knowledge, which is important and can contribute to students.”

Staff also report they ensure their knowledge is up to date for the tutorials, says Bernoth.

As a result, students engage with staff and respect the learning they get, says Bernoth.

Thomas says the partnership with CSU is beneficial to the facility, which hosts an “enormous” amount of students, and raises the profile of aged care among this group of would-be nurses.

“It exposes students to different things. It might open up their thinking a bit. As a result of this project we have started the new graduate program, which has been fantastic.”

Graduate nurses are in excess of requirements for six months and are buddied up with RNs and receive support from facility and university mentors to help their development, she says.

Access to mentoring improves people’s qualifications, eagerness to do the same, and interest in working in aged care, says Bernoth, who is now developing a mentoring model for aged care.

Mentoring to lead

Corrinne Armour

Corrinne Armour, a leadership advisor who helps organisations develop mentoring programs to support leadership, agrees compatibility is an important part of a mentoring program.

“You need to be clear on the matching process for mentoring because it won’t always work,” Armour tells AAA.

In terms of a setting up a leadership mentoring program, Armour says up-front training for mentors and mentees is required to ensure individual and shared understanding of the roles, she says.

“There needs to be an agreement between the mentor and the mentee, which would cover things such as the level of formality of conversations, the timing, frequency and areas in and out of scope, as well as how to wrap up the mentoring relationship.”

The main outcomes for mentees are development, support, career sponsorship, confidence and exposure to people and ideas, says Armour. The mentor also gets access to new ideas as well as learning through discussing their own past practices.

“You relearn from your own experiences when you pass them onto someone else,” says Armour.

The most important quality a mentor needs is experience or expertise in the space they are mentoring in, says Armour. They must also be able to listen and ask questions, she says.

Armour says the relationship also needs clear boundaries led by the mentor that include when and how to contact each other, the scope of the relationship and confidentiality.

An extended version of this report appears in the current issue of Australian Ageing Agenda magazine (May-June).

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