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Communication between departments key to long-lasting change

Improved leadership, teamwork and communication among residential aged care staff can have massive benefits on how facilities are run and how residents are cared for, as proved by a study on change through intervention in the sector.

Authors of Development and Evaluation of an Organisational Culture Change Intervention in Residential Aged Care Facilities have developed a toolkit offering tips for team leaders and staff in aged care homes to implement long-lasting organisational change.

The Towards Organisational Culture Change (TOrCC) toolkit provides a step-by-step practical approach based on the findings of the study, which worked with staff in five residential aged care facilities, encouraging them to work in small work groups to identify needs for change and how this could be achieved.

“Bringing groups of diverse staff together – some who are carers, some who are admin, some who are maintenance – really seemed to work in improving outcomes for residents,” co-author Christopher Etherton-Beer told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“We said to them, ‘what are the challenges in your workplace, what would you like to achieve? What is working and what isn’t working?’. We facilitated those discussions, identified problems, gave them some of the basic tools for quality improvement cycles, implemented a change and evaluated that quality improvement cycle.

“It seemed to really work.”


The problems staff focused on in the discussions often required only simple solutions, but the study proved that communication was crucial to facilitating them.

In one facility it was moving the breakfast time to one that better suited both staff and residents. In another it was getting maintenance staff to work better with care staff to ensure damaged wheelchairs were fixed more efficiently. Some facilities focused on clinical topics such as continence care, or engagement for residents – care and therapy staff in one home developed exercise stations for residents to do simple exercises like squats.

“The application has been really diverse,” said Mr Etherton-Beer. “What’s key is giving staff a voice.”

The role of managers, he added, is crucial to the process.

“We know many staff in the sector have no formal education and they turn over frequently, which makes it really difficult to get sustainable change in residential aged care.”

But the survey discovered there is a really dedicated core of long-serving staff; about 30 per cent of people had worked in residential aged care for more than 10 years.

“From our research and interviews we found these people really are motivated overwhelmingly by altruistic motivators,” said Mr Etherton-Beer. “The vast majority of these people said they loved their work and they loved being able to make a difference. These are the people we want to champion. These managers are really important in empowering their staff and giving them permission to try and achieve some change.”

The TOrCC toolkit offers tips in areas such as risk management, maintaining change momentum, dealing with challenges and providing feedback. It encourages someone from each department to be involved.

“What we’ve provided is a standard framework, but residential care homes can tailor this methodology to their own individual needs,” said Mr Etherton-Beer.

“We’re excited about the findings of this study. It’s a simple approach but an effective one, it doesn’t cost a lot, it’s just about empowering people to work together more effectively to achieve diverse change and improve outcomes for staff, residents and families.”

Access the TOrCC toolkit here.

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