Workforce Development and Education

Evaluating the outcomes of inter-professional education (IPE) programs in residential aged care

Karla Seaman

Lead Investigator: Karla Seaman

The main aim of this project was to evaluate the outcomes of interprofessional education programs in residential aged care, notably outcomes related to students, facility staff and facility residents.

The inter-professional education (IPE) program has demonstrated that it instils an understanding of cross-disciplinary roles at the undergraduate level among students witnessing staff members working collaboratively and successfully as a team.

A mixed methods approach using a convergent parallel design was used across 2013 to 2015 for the Western Australia site, for 2015 data was collected in conjunction with sites from South Australia. Data included surveys, focus groups and semi-structured interviews with a triangulation of perspectives from residents, significant others, staff and students.

Results from the evaluation indicate the outcomes of the program are multifaceted, demonstrating this model enables collaborative care among aged care professionals, helps contribute to a sustainable aged care workforce and ultimately provides better resident outcomes. An interprofessional toolkit is now being developed for residential aged care staff to support education and practice and facilitate student placement in residential aged care organisations across Australia.

Information regarding this study is available here:
IPE Evaluation Report

An interprofessional education toolkit for staff in residential aged care


Lead Investigator: Dr Angelita Martini and Rosemary Saunders

The IPE programs at the Brightwater Care Group and Helping Hand have over the last three years provided the tertiary and vocational education training sectors with authentic learning opportunities for students.

Students undertaking the IPE placement have participated in interprofessional practice with their peers supported by the RACF staff with a strong focus on working with people who have cognitive and functional related decline.The nature of the IPE program, however, necessitated a greater initial emphasis on the students rather than staff, as there was limited opportunity and resources available to upskill existing staff at the facilities.

The existence of resources specific to the needs of existing staff within an aged care environment would ensure that IPE is a more sustainable option when it comes to embedding learnings from the program to staff within the organisations and also to the broader aged care sector.

The aim of this project was to develop, implement and disseminate an interprofessional education resource toolkit specifically for residential aged care that will enable staff to support interprofessional education and practice and to facilitate interprofessional student placements to improve the care and wellbeing outcomes for people with cognitive and functional related decline.

Access the free online IPEAC toolkit

Final Report: An Interprofessional Education Toolkit for Staff in Residential Aged Care

Improving quality of residential dementia care and promoting change by supporting and caring for staff

Katrina Anderson

Lead Investigator: Dr Katrina Anderson

In the area of residential dementia care, it is clear that there is a relationship between the variables involving staff and/or the facility with the quality of care provided, and quality of life for residents.

Variables include staff attitude, wellbeing, skills, personality, and burnout. At facility level, the variables are staff ratios, level of autonomy or support given to staff, and differing views on what constitutes ‘care’.

Despite many reviews, it is difficult to develop a coherent overview of the nature of these relationships, or the relative importance of the variables. It is also hard to determine where to intervene in order to minimise suffering for people with dementia who are spending their last years in residential care.

The potential problems include:

  • conceptualising interventions as equivalent to psychosocial pills and excluding complex studies from reviews
  • lack of detail about how interventions are delivered
  • a tendency to demand methodological purity in an area where delivering interventions (and measuring the effects) is often extremely messy
  • inconsistency in defining staff variables and quality of life in later dementia
    a tendency to concentrate on limited aspects of the literature
  • the fact that many studies do indeed have poor methodology.

Two systematic reviews were conducted based on the published scientific literature over the last 20 years and aimed at: 1. providing more information about the relationships between staff, quality of care, and quality of life for residents; and, 2. the interventions that have been used with staff to try to improve quality of care and quality of life. We were only interested in staff variables that were potentially changeable (e.g. attitude but not gender); Quality of care was defined by what is actually done to or with residents; Quality of life was also broadly defined.

How do staff influence the quality of long-term dementia care and the lives of residents? A systematic review of the evidence. International Psychogeriatrics, 28(8) 1263-1281.

Do interventions with staff in long-term residential facilities improve quality of care or quality for life people with dementia? A systematic review of the evidence. International Psychogeriatrics, 28 (12) 1937-1963.

Healthy Ageing in Australian Physicians – Understanding, describing and adapting to cognitive and related functional decline as part of normal ageing in health practitioners


Lead Investigator: Prof. Susan Kurrle, Dr. Narelle Shadbolt

This one (1) year non-CDPC funding Activity ran from January 2014 to January 2015 and was planned to document the ways in which doctors experience and adapt to the ageing process, in particular, brain and physical changes with the goal of informing the development of evidence based approach to maintaining health and safe and sustainable practice. This Activity was not funded through the CDPC, however the researchers were closely aligned with the CDPC objectives and were willing to share evidence that might inform future research or implementation initiatives.

Activity Outcomes Report available here

Intervene Phase 2 – Best practice in pain management in aged care for people living with dementia


Lead Investigator: A/Prof. Colm Cunningham, Prof. Christopher Poulos, Dr Sharon Andrews, Prof. Phillip Siddal, Prof. Anneke Fitzgerald, Dr Catriona Lorang

Over a decade of research has highlighted that pain is largely unrecognised and frequently undertreated in people with dementia. In Residential Aged Care (RAC) services there is a “gap” between what is described as best practice in pain management for people living with dementia and what is happening “on the ground.”

Activity 38 (Intervene Phase 2), is an implementation project that will address this evidence-practice gap. It will draw on the findings of a pilot study (Intervene Phase 1) that revealed persistent problems with the identification, assessment and management of pain in older people, associated with a range of systemic and cultural barriers specific to the RAC settings.

Intervene Phase 2 will address those barriers that 1) reduce the ability of Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) to effectively engage in pain management processes, and 2) constrain development of a service culture that supports proactive, evidence-based pain management for people living with dementia.

Researchers will work in partnership with Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) established at four RAC sites, to develop strategies that will target individual, group and organisational behaviours to build capacity of staff to enhance evidence-based pain management. Integral to this objective is the empowerment of PCAs as central stakeholders in pain identification, assessment and management. The project findings will inform the development of a transferable ‘MDT Pain Management Model’. This model will synthesise new knowledge created in this project with existing evidence, and provide a framework for how MDTs (at local/facility levels and through inter-organisational collaboration) can effectively contribute to the development of a culture that supports the translation of evidence based pain management strategies into practice. The model will be a transferrable tool that can be adopted by other Australian RAC services. Hence, the outcomes of this project have the potential to inform behaviour change at a practice and system level to improve the lives of people living with dementia.