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Health partnership provides workplace training with seniors


Brigid Veale
14 June 2013
Southern Cross University's School of Health and Human Sciences has joined forces with Sawtell Catholic Care of the Aged to provide workplace training to prepare students to work in primary health care with older Australians.

The Primary Health Care for Older People project, funded by a $945,800 grant from Health Workforce Australia, is designed to improve the quality of clinical training of health students and health workers in regional and rural areas.

Nursing and exercise physiology students have been based at Sawtell working out of the University's mobile health facility – a specially designed semi-trailer housing medical equipment. They are offering individual health assessments to independent living residents, residential care residents and community clients at Marian Grove and Mater Christi.

Associate Professor Wendy Gilleard, the deputy Head of the School of Health and Human Sciences, said older people were a diverse group with a range of needs and preferences for dealing with their health issues.

"This work placement at Sawtell Catholic Care of the Aged provides our students with the opportunity to gain real world experience of interacting with people over 65, some in their real home settings, who live independently and have volunteered to be our 'expert' patients,” Professor Gilleard said.

"Recent federal government health reforms include a focus on the wellbeing of older Australians, promoting their independence and choice and encouraging them to retain community engagement. Health workers seeking to work in this area need to be sensitive to these needs when delivering care and support."

Ms Kym Bellamy, village manager at Marian Grove, said the project was engaging their residents from independent living and provided a great opportunity for them to discuss their health and wellbeing.

β€œIt is also providing invaluable training for students in the region,” Ms Bellamy said.

University project leader Dr Louise Horstmanshof said by inviting the residents to participate in the project, SCU was ensuring that older people had the opportunity to provide input into training development.

"This is such an important, authentic element in our students' training. We will obtain valuable feedback from older patients as part of the student practitioner-patient encounter to assist in the development of relevant health care for older adults.

"The project will also guide students in better understanding how to provide patient-centred care, and how to recognise ageist stereotypes that impact on quality health care for older people."

The residents choose to visit a student nurse or exercise physiologist. The assessments are taking place in the consulting rooms of the mobile health facility. The mobile health facility is a semi-trailer with expanding side capsules and fitted out with a variety of medical equipment to create a consulting room atmosphere.

Combining this hands-on experience with a series of education sessions being delivered during their placements, the students will get to test and develop a range of important clinical skills, including communicating with older people; clinical reasoning; decision making; reflective practice; and inter-professional team work.

MEDIA OPPORTUNITY: Media are invited to Marian Grove, Toormina, on Friday, June 14, at 10am. Photo: Clinical exercise physiology students Brock Lowry, Jack Jansson and Sam Mitchell.