Competencies research to form the basis of Aged Care Transition to Practice Program

A new learning initiative led by the University of Wollongong will aim to develop skills for nurses working in Aged Care. Image supplied: Getty

A University of Wollongong (UoW) project funded by the federal Aged Care Transition to Practice Program (ACTPP) will encourage participating registered nurses to become “lifelong learners.”

The School secured funding in a tender to work with industry partners in creating two learning programs, each six months in length.  The programs aim to progress the gerontological nursing skills of early-career (“Essential” stream) and mid-career registered nurses wanting to hone their leadership abilities (“Enhanced” stream).

Professor Victoria Traynor, Director of the UoW’s Aged and Dementia Health Education and Research Program, said the learning streams are also about building nurses’ capacity to grow, develop, and sharpen critical thinking in aged care settings as opposed to deconstructing what they have previously learnt.

“Our program starts from the premise that, probably, most of the registered nurses… actually know how to deliver gerontological nursing care. They know what best practice is,” explains Professor Traynor, who is also the Acting Head of UoW’s School of Nursing.

“[It] enables the registered nurses to develop those skills, to seek out and expand their knowledge, but more importantly, articulate what they do in clinical practice.”

The federally funded program significantly expands the School of Nursing’s Gerontological Nursing Competencies (GNCs) research project into the public domain.

The GNC’s, a set of 11 core competencies and 33 domains of practice, have been developed on an ongoing basis in consultation with practising RNs and experts in nursing and gerontological care since 2015, have been rigorously tested by the UoW, Professor Traynor explains.

“We were able to attract funding…  to develop a workbook [in 2017] that articulated how the registered nurses would work through each of the competencies and actually demonstrate their specialist nursing practice in gerontological nursing,” she says.

“After that [in 2018], we piloted ‘the competency framework’, as we called it, which was the workbook that articulated five steps for the practitioners to move through a six-month program to demonstrate their specialist competency.”

Given the extensive research involved with the project, Professor Traynor said she and her team knew they had ‘a winner’. The team are positive their program, fueled by its recent funding success, can help restore confidence to the families of those living in aged care settings.

“Our vision would be that it would be incorporated into the [Aged Care] Quality Standards, or an industry endorsement,” Professor Traynor explains.

“That actually gives consumers, older people and families, confidence, that when their older person is being cared for by an organisation, they actually have a level of discernment about choosing between organisations where a certain percentage of their workforce has been awarded a level of competence — That’s our long term vision.”

The ACTPP, administered by the federal Health Department, was previously announced at the 2020-21 federal budget, with an additional $1.1 million of funding allocated as part of the federal government’s response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care’s final report earlier this year.

According to the Health Department, the program aims to “attract and retain up to 740 new nurses to aged care,” with two other organisations — The Australian College of Nursing and Aged and Community Services Australia — also contributing funded projects alongside the UoW as part of the scheme.

More information on the University of Wollongong’s GNC’s research and ACTPP contribution can be found here and here

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