Care of the Older Person

It has been identified that health care for the older population (persons over the age of 65) is unique and specialist. This has resulted in the acknowledgement that the older person has different health care needs, issues and concerns, requiring a nursing workforce that appreciates and recognises these differences, and has the knowledge and skill to manage them appropriately.

In Australia (2017) data show that 15% (3.7 million) of Australians are currently over the age of 65, with a projected growth to 22% (8.7 million) by 20561. As part of an initiative to revamp the Transition to Practice program for our 2018 Graduate nurses, Beaufort Skipton Health Service, in collaboration with Ballarat Health Services, launched a new project that looked to fulfil graduate nurse’s first year requirements whilst incorporating a focus on caring for the older generation. This project highlighted the importance of challenging the thinking around caring for these people and worked to improve the care, health and quality of life for the older person by focusing on the specific health care needs of this population and how we can meet these as part of a holistic person centred approach to care. This program enables our current nurses and graduates to begin a career path to expert aged care specialists.

In 2020 the program continues with participants from 10 health services across the region. These nurses will be given opportunity to learn from some industry specialists and will focus on areas such as palliative care; leadership; physiological, sociological and psychological changes; health promotion and community services.

The aims of the COOPs program are:

  • To challenge the stigma surrounding the care of the older person, both within the health industry and the community
  • Cement the understanding that the older person is present in every area of health, and not just Aged Care homes
  • Engage first year nurses into understanding the complexities that surround working with the older person
  • To ensure a workforce that is current and referencing best practice, to ensure quality and safety in care
  • To promote a positive work environment, dedicated to learning and engaging the community

The COOPs program is affiliated with Australian Catholic University (ACU) to co-facilitate a Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Nursing – Gerontology. This involves completing 2 units of study through the COOPs program, including academic assessments and attendance at 5 specialist study days, and then completing 2 units of study through ACU online. This results in more specialist nurses within our community, taking care of our needs, and understanding that complexities of the older person.

We aspire to promote the care of the older person as more than just incorporating aged care facilities, with the idea that these clients play a prominent role in the majority of heath care specialities and settings. To be able to manage the special needs of these clients will lead to better health outcomes for the person and greater job satisfaction for our nursing workforce.

The COOPs program has allowed Beaufort and Skipton Health Services, in partnership with BHS, to have a public voice in the DHHS State-wide Steering Committee for the development of a Victoria Wide COOPs program, allowed for presentations at The National Nurses Forum on the Gold Coast in 2018 and Hobart in 2019 and a submission to the Aged Care Royal Commission. Moving into 2021 will see this program presented at the National Nurses Forum in Canberra.