Early-career and experienced nurses plus providers are invited to take part in a program to boost the gerontological competencies of aged care nurses, writes Professor Victoria Traynor.
The Royal Commission highlighted what those in aged care already know – workforce is the most critical aspect of aged care reform.
Caring for older people living with multiple chronic illness including acute exacerbation, while ethically responding to individual preferences in end of life or acute treatment trajectories, can be the most complex work a nurse can do.
Yet, many people aren’t aware that aged care nursing is a specialty in its own right, known as gerontological nursing.
A consortium between the University of Wollongong and University of Canberra is pleased to present their contribution to increasing the awareness and enablement of the specialised knowledge and skills for nurses working in aged care through the Gerontological Nurse Competency (GNC) program.
This year we are excited to announce the Federal Government funding, which makes the program free for participants and expands the program nationwide.
The award-winning GNC program is an evidence-based mentoring and leadership program. It is based on gerontological nursing competencies developed in the USA by the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing and developed in conjunction with aged care providers and gerontological nurses in the NSW and ACT.
The GNC has been running for more than six years, and has the following 11 core competencies:
- promoting mental health and psychological wellbeing
- partnering with family carers
- providing evidence-based dementia care
- communicating effectively
- facilitating choices within legal and ethical frameworks
- providing palliative care
- providing optimal pain management
- maximizing health outcomes
- facilitating transitions in care
- enabling access to technology
- promoting mental health psychological wellbeing.
A previous multimethod study with five national providers, five Delphi rounds of surveys to achieve expert consensus and focus groups with 68 participants found the program was a positive experience and related to achieving competence in practice, improving their individual development and helping them to realise their leadership responsibilities.
The program very specifically:
- helps articulate the role of a new graduate and early career nurse in aged care
- provide the crucial aspects to guide mentoring activities
- complements a strategic approach to recruitment, retention, education and quality strategies.
The 11 competencies can be explored by nurses through the six-month essential program and/or the six-month enhanced program, which combined are equivalent and recognised as a graduate certificate.
The 2021-23 government-funded program will be evaluated with a mixed methods design, including a survey with components of key aspects of knowledge and care provision deficits identified by the royal commission such as nutrition, dementia and palliative care knowledge.
The consortium has been funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and will build on the successful Aged Care Round Table events co-chaired by Professor Strickland and Mr Anthony Dombkins, ACT Health Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer.
The Chief Nurse will complement the project by supporting Dr Kasia Bail as a part-time Associate Professor of Gerontology with ACT Health to promote gerontological nursing best practice and development in the ACT and region.
The university-industry partnership will provide evidence-based educational strategies to attract new graduate nurses to aged care, train them as competent gerontological nurses and provide career pathways for retention.
We are looking nationwide for early-career nurses (one-to-two years after graduating a degree) interested in improving their confidence and competence in caring for aged care residents.
Experienced nurses who are committed to supporting the next generation of aged care nurse leaders are also wanted to support the program. They will be remunerated for their time. Organisations who are able to support their workforce in this development are also encouraged to apply.
Victoria Traynor is Professor of Nursing at University of Wollongong and Director of ADHERe – Aged Dementia Health Education and Research group
Associate Professor Kasia Bail from University of Canberra and ACT Health, Professor Karen Strickland from Edith Cowen University, Professor Tracey Moroney from Curtin University, Professor Diane Gibson from University of Canberra, and Nicole Britten from University of Wollongong contributed to this article.
This story appears in Australian Ageing Agenda magazine (Mar-Apr 2022)
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