Project aims to build new generation of gerontology nurses to work in aged care

University of Canberra’s Faculty of Health Executive Dean, Professor Michelle Lincoln; Professor of Gerontological Nursing Kasia Bail; and Distinguished Professor of Health and Ageing Diane Gibson. Photo: Tyler Cherry

The University of Canberra will lead a $2.1 million Commonwealth project aimed at building and sustaining the nursing workforce in aged care settings.

The project will have two main educational components: training and support for nurse educators, and clinical placements for second and third-year nursing students in residential aged care.

Professor of Gerontological Nursing, Kasia Bail, said the initiative will promote the specialisation of nursing for older people, an area which requires highly skilled individuals but is often overlooked in favour of other nursing specialties, as it is traditionally misinterpreted as providing ‘basic’ nursing care.

The older population often presents with coexisting conditions, complex health needs, and varying needs from medication, treatment and care routines, which can make the clinical decision-making process for aged care nurses both nuanced and impactful.

“We are very excited to be implementing this project, as it will be instrumental in making the complexities of gerontological nursing visible, accessible and learnable for nursing students,” Professor Bail said.

“Older people access health services across the board – not just in aged care settings. They are among the highest users of these services, given the complexity of their health needs. Supporting nursing students to develop skills and knowledge to respond to the complex clinical needs of this population is key to improving care,” added Distinguished Professor of Health and Ageing, Diane Gibson

Professor Bail and Distinguished Professor Gibson will be working alongside Faculty of Health Executive Dean, Professor Michelle Lincoln; Nursing Discipline Lead Professor Jenny Weller-Newton; Associate Professor Holly Northam; and Lecturer and Nursing Professional Practice Convenor Alicia Hind to deliver the ambitious program at the University.

They will collaborate with Professor Karen Strickland from Edith Cowan University, Professor Vicki Traynor from the University of Wollongong, and Professor Tracey Moroney from Curtin University, bringing together a wealth of expertise and experience in research, education, leadership, and clinical expertise in gerontological nursing.

The universities will deliver the project in partnership with health services and aged care providers from Semester Two 2023, through to the end of 2024.

The program will use the evidence-based Gerontological Nursing Competencies program, and the Murra Mullangari First Nations cultural safety program from CATSINaM (Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives) to develop new cohorts of gerontology nurse mentors in the ACT, NSW and WA.

Educational approaches illuminating academically rich activities in aged care placements will be implemented to support student learning.

“The collaborators in this program have a strong track record in supporting First Nations influence and insight in the work of the Registered Nurse when providing complex care to enhance quality of life for older Australians,” Professor Bail said.

“Our vision for this program is to demonstrate the effectiveness of universities and industry partners working together to raise a generation of gerontology nurses to support aged care reform in Australia.”

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