A new training system which better equips nurses with the skills and confidence to care for the elderly has been successfully piloted in the Illawarra.
University of Wollongong researchers teamed up with five aged care providers across the region to run the pilot, which teams nurses with mentors to develop specialist skills.
Team leader Professor Victoria Traynor, from the School of Nursing, said the new competency-based training could help address problems highlighted in the Aged Care Royal Commission.
"The framework consists of 11 core competencies of gerontological nursing, and if an organisation has adopted this framework then the older person and their carers can be confident that all their needs will be addressed," she said.
"It's a structured and transparent approach that organisations can use to achieve the royal commission goal of Australia becoming known for world-class aged care services.
"It has been developed over the last three years, with input from researchers and consultation with more than 400 nurses."
The competencies include promoting mental health and psychological well-being; providing evidence-based dementia care; providing optimal pain management and enabling access to technology.
They also include the concept of providers partnering with carers - something Prof Traynor says is vital.
"It acknowledges that when an older person relocates into a nursing home or receives community care, their family is important," she said. "And that a key role of the staff is to understand how they can work with the family and that person."
By 2030, more than 20 per cent of the population will be over 65. However Prof Traynor said while the number of support staff in aged care has risen rapidly, the number of registered nurses had remained static.
She said a lack of specialist knowledge, as well as opportunities for professional development, was leading to positions remained unfilled.
"The health problems older people now face are greater than in the past, and aged care nurses need to develop expertise in all these areas of care," she said.
"This framework will help organisations with their recruitment processes, it will inform their quality initiatives as well as their professional development and education programs."
HammondCare, Uniting, BaptistCare, Anglicare and Scalabrini Village were the providers involved in the 12-month trial of the competencies using an interactive workbook.
"We focused on new graduate registered nurses and early career nurses in aged care," Prof Traynor said.
"An evaluation of the training found the program produced nurses who were more confident and skilled in caring for older people.
"So we are hoping more organisations will be interested in implementing the framework."