The role of nurse unit managers (NUMs) and their manager equivalents in aged care is under the spotlight in a research project announced today by Catholic Health Australia (CHA).

The Catholic Health Australia Nursing and Midwifery Empowerment Project, sponsored by Health Super, has engaged the Royal College of Nursing Australia (RCNA) to conduct nationwide surveys and focus groups in Catholic hospitals and aged care services to understand the role that NUMs and their aged care equivalents play in achieving optimum patient and resident care. 

Specifically, it will investigate how patient care in hospitals and aged care services can be improved by providing NUMS and their aged care equivalents with better support.

CHA CEO Martin Laverty, said the project’s aim was to empower Nurse Unit Managers to achieve optimum levels of patient care in hospitals and aged care services.

“But to do this, we need to understand the everyday concerns and needs of Nurse Unit Managers and how they can be better supported through education and training,” he said.

CHA told Australian Ageing Agenda that the study is based on the study being undertaken by NSW Health entitled ‘take the lead’ http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/nursing/projects/take_the_lead.asp which aims to understand and support the role of the NUM/MUM in providing highly co-ordinated care at the ward/unit level to improve patient and carer experiences.

CHA said the research design has tried to replicate the methodology used by NSW Health.  The research has two phases: a survey of over 200 NUMS and aged care equivalents, now completed; and a series of focus groups conducted in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, also just completed.

RCNA is at the stage of analysing the survey and focus group results and will develop a final report on the findings with recommendations.

While CHA told AAA that it cannot pre-empt the findings, the spokesperson said it was clear from the research that nurse managers in aged care faced similar pressures to their hospital counterparts but had the additional pressures of the aged care regulatory framework to manage.

The report would look at ways to support the nurse manager role, such as mentoring and education about role awareness for everyone in the workplace including nurse managers themselves.  The CHA spokesperson said there needed to be a better appreciation of what the role entails – and does not entail – to avoid the frustration often experienced by overloaded nurse managers.

Succession planning is also very important, according to the CHA spokesperson, and it was clear there needs to be a greater focus on the next generation of nurse leaders.

The findings of the research will be presented at CHA’s National Conference in Adelaide, 23-25 August.

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