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Image: University of the Sunshine Coast lecturer Julie Martyn (centre) with aged-care resident Ivy Boxall and advanced personal care worker Louise Gay.

Program to address education shortfalls for personal care workers

An Australian research project has revealed shortfalls in education programs for personal care workers and has informed the development of a formal program to address their ongoing education needs.

The study identified differences in the quality of vocational education for personal care workers and a lack of targeted education programs once they were on the job.

Julie Martyn, a senior lecturer in nursing at the University of the Sunshine Coast, conducted focus groups, interviews and surveys with managers and personal care workers at residential aged-care facilities in Hervey Bay and Bundaberg.

Martyn said personal care workers play a vital role in the aged-care sector, yet they are not regulated by the agency responsible for monitoring doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. “Ongoing education is mandatory for other health professions to meet their requirements for registration, however there is no impetus for care workers because they are unlicensed.”

Aged Care Insite spoke with Martyn about her research and the aspects of care the education program covers.

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  1. Good work. Importantly, this project gives a voice to the personal care workers to identify what they see they need to improve to optimise their care. And, clearly, these learning needs mirror what is needed generally for providers of care in any setting. I wonder if Julie intends this curriculum as an add on to the existing Certs 3 and 4 which provide core units of competency. I think continuing to provide ongoing structured, targeted education which continues to build knowledge and skills in the largest aged care workforce is essential.
    I am developing a tool which identifies the knowledge, skills and attitudes of ‘nursing assistants’ iand a palliative approach n RACFs. Perhaps a similar curriculum could be developed based on identified needs.

  2. Annabelle Allimant

    Training is critical about multiple issues that can include: development & support to grow communication skills, extensive multicultural understanding, issues of confidentiality & right to privacy for residents, exploring the ethical issues of caring, exploring the concept of power dynamic in age care, trauma & how survivors can be triggered at various times by carers action / inaction, initiative in being part of a supporting team, exploring who is the primary client when fragile partners are around & what is needed for the other, how is the physical environment needed to be kept for infection control, risk of pressure wounds, management of pressure wounds and what constitutes timely response.
    Consideration needs to be given to turn over of staff, appropriate debriefing and supervision of staff as well as ongoing building on knowledge.

  3. If we register personal care worker this will bring them up to the standards of continued education just like nurses. In this day and time of aged care needs and the inevitable growth of these needs a regulated registered worker is required. Personal care workers need to be valued not to be complained about by managers. The owners of aged care need to look up and think with registration they get a workforce that will be professionally developing within their roles which surely flows on to the residents/clients they support and care for. ‘It’s time”.