Student education program improves aged care workforce and resident quality of life


A recent study, published in the Journal of Interprofessional Care, estimates a $1.6m societal benefit from the introduction of an interprofessional student education placement program within residential aged care.

Currently, there is much debate about how to build a sustainable aged care workforce for the future. Staff training in aged care, resourcing, and negative perceptions of careers in aged care have been identified as barriers to maintaining a skilled aged care workforce.

The paper “Benefit–cost analysis of an interprofessional education program within a residential aged care facility in Western Australia”, from researchers at the University of Queensland , in collaboration with Edith Cowan University and Brightwater care Group, employs a detailed social benefit–cost analysis approach to evaluate an interprofessional education (IPE) student placement program in a Western Australian residential aged care organisation.

Interprofessional education programs provide training in residential aged care for students from a diverse range of health care disciplines.

“Our analysis provides one of the first insights into the social costs and benefits of IPE clinical placements for aged care providers. Financial evaluation of social projects like the IPE placement can be misleading because some benefits and costs do not have market values, such as quality of life of residents,” explains co- author and health economist Dr Kim Huong Nguyen.

The program, implemented over a three-year period, saw an average of 60 students receiving 182 training sessions per year with a third of the aged care staff involved in training and supervision of students. The impact on the skill, productivity and experience of the staff due to exposure of the IPE program was examined over the last five years.

Of significance were the gains observed from the improved quality of life of residents. Regular interactions with the students improved the residents’ physical health and emotional wellbeing.

Graduates also showed improved productivity due to enhanced skill and knowledge, while staff directly involved in student training and supervision also displayed improved productivity and greater job satisfaction, resulting in lower rates of absenteeism and turnover.

Implementation of the IPE program did not present a financial gain for the aged care provider. Although some financial benefits occurred through reductions in health-care service requirements and reduced staff turnover, these were outweighed by the costs from the initial investment to implement IPE into the residential aged care site as well as operating costs. These costs could be reduced for the provider through financial agreements with academic institutions providing students for placement.

Associate Professor Tracy Comans from The University of Queensland said it was important to note that the benefit–cost analysis framework considers not only the size but also the distribution of net benefits from different stakeholders’ perspectives.

“The IPE project, by its very interprofessional nature, involves multiple organisations with competing objectives and interests. Therefore, a clear understanding of a net benefit stream relevant to each stakeholder can serve as a powerful tool in a participatory decision-making.”

These findings provide unique economic analysis of the true costs and benefits of translating an innovative training program into residential aged care that can positively impact health service organisations, educational providers, and aged care residents.

Organisations applying a benefit–cost analysis framework obtain uniformity, transparency, quality assurance, and the detailed information required to come to a decision about implementing new programs.

Resources and information to implement the IPE Program are available on the CDPC Website.