SwanCare has won a national aged care award for advancing the skills of future doctors and nurses, announced at the Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) summit in Melbourne on October 8, 2019.
The non-profit organisation won ACSA’s 2019 National Aged Care Award for Innovation in Service or Design, reflecting two initiatives developed by SwanCare in partnership with Curtin Medical School and The University of Notre Dame Australia.
The win beat various innovative aged care projects based in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.
The SwanCare/Curtin Medical School partnership, the Senior Citizen Partnership Program, works as an intergenerational program to help develop senior-savvy doctors of the future.
SwanCare resident Susan Lewis is currently linked with seven students in total.
“It is very important for doctors to be aware of the processes of ageing, physically and mentally, especially as people are living much longer these days,” Sue said. “As an older person I feel I have a wealth of knowledge and experience I can share with these young students.
“I find the students delightful and I gain so much by learning about their views and different cultures. It really is a two way relationship - I feel I’m helping them and they certainly provide me with very stimulating conversation.”
The SwanCare/Notre Dame University partnership – called the Graduate Nurses Program – welcomes two nurses every year to complete post graduate studies and attain their Graduate Certificate in Clinical Nursing while working at SwanCare’s residential care facilities.
“At SwanCare we are committed to developing health professionals who are involved in meeting the care needs of our ageing population, now and in the future,” SwanCare General Manager of Health and Aged Care Services, Julie Atkinson said. “Nurturing the knowledge, skills and mindset of the future aged care workforce is of huge importance."
“Working with our partners in the development of our future doctors and nurses will benefit both our ageing population and our communities in general, by creating better health care outcomes,” Julie Atkinson said. “It is our hope that the understanding between generations will improve the perception of the aged care sector as a career path, attracting a younger demographic with a vibrancy of attitude and innovative thinking.”
About the Senior Citizen Partnership Program
Now in its third year, the Senior Citizen Partnership Program, run with the Curtin Medical School, provides students the opportunity to build positive relationships with an older person. The introduction is made in the first year and is maintained throughout their five year degree. The program intends to offer students insight to their Senior Citizen partner’s needs, an understanding of the ageing process and how an older person might interact with the health system. It is hoped that a familiarity and an empathy will evolve and help future doctors to meet the needs of our ageing population.
There is strong evidence that increasing the social interaction and participation of older adults is a key factor in successful ageing and improved psychological health; with volunteering later in life being associated with reduced symptoms of depression, better self-reported health and fewer functional limitations (Douglas et al, 2016 Anderson et al, 2014).
The Senior Citizen Partnership Program has engaged 86 medical students over the past three years in partnership with 45 residential and independent living residents at SwanCare, receiving excellent feedback from all involved.
“We are delighted to have experienced some senior citizen participants signing up each year to assist a new cohort of medical students with some now partnering students in each of the three years the program has been running,” Julie Atkinson said. “Communicating with seniors and understanding their perspective on life, ageing and health issues is invaluable for the students and the heartfelt bonds built between participants is testament to the program’s value.”
About the Graduate Nurses Program
Within the care system, SwanCare has experienced an increase in the level of care required for residents and the need to deliver more complex care at an acute level. The Graduate Nurses Program was developed with Notre Dame University as a way to engage nurses into the aged care industry and to be able to meet the increasingly complex needs of residents.
The Graduate Nurses Program engages two nurses per year to complete post graduate studies and attain their Graduate Certificate in Clinical Nursing, while working a number of shifts per week in our residential care facilities. The program is now in its second year.
Nurses complete the program with broader knowledge and skills particular to the aged care industry - and improved employment prospects - and graduate with a Graduate Certificate in Clinical Nursing.