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Words from the wise

A university initiative engaging students with older people is benefitting the community and the future workplace.

A nursing academic has been working to improve the quality of aged care by attempting to change students’ attitudes towards older people.

“In keeping with societal attitudes and stigmas, undergraduate nursing students tended to find the study of ageing and caring for older people basic, disinteresting and irrelevant,” said Dr Maree Bernoth from Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health.

Bernoth developed online resources for students and encouraged them to meet and speak with older members of the community.

“The quality of the education provided to nursing students and other aged-care workers is extremely important in combating abuse of elders,” Bernoth said. “Previously the nursing students undertaking the aged-care subject would come in contact with only frail dependent older people during a work placement in residential aged care.”

She said that although this is a significant setting, she wanted to broaden students’ views of aged-care nursing and to foster contact with older people in good health.

Third year nursing students engaged with members of Older Men: New Ideas (OMNI) during tutorials for the aged-care subject. OMNI member Dr Ray King said, “The involvement of our members in Maree's learning initiatives benefitted both the presenters from our group and the nursing students.”

Students also conducted interviews with older people in Wagga Wagga’s main shopping precinct, and CSU’s School of Communication and Creative Industries helped to create a DVD of an older couple living in the community, called The Colgraves, for use in the aged-care subject.

“The feedback on these initiatives from nursing students, graduates and those who come across our graduates in the workplace has been positive and encouraging,” Bernoth said, noting student engagement with the aged-care subject has increased over the last four years. “I believe our students are taking their knowledge and skills into their professional arenas, translating knowledge into practice.

“Ultimately this is making a difference to the standard of care of Australia's ageing population.”

The school has started a collaboration with Murrumbidgee Medicare Local to develop opportunities for students to gain more experience working with older people.

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