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Sunday, June 26, 2022

New Centre for Growth and Translational Research to ’empower and engage the aged care workforce to unprecedented extent’

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A new, state of the art $34 million research facility is providing fresh hope of developing an empowered aged care workforce and better clinical outcomes for older Australians.

Supported by Wells Advisory and 73 financial and strategic partners, the Flinders University Aged Care Centre for Growth and Translational Research (CGTR) started operation last week, with an online opening ceremony that laid out researchers’ bold new plans.

It’s been a long time coming, with the centre being one of 14 actions laid out in the Federal Government’s 2018 policy strategy A Matter of Care: Australia’s Aged Care Workforce Strategy – alongside other initiatives such as creation of the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council.

Professor Sue Gordon, CTGR research director and workforce capacity lead, says that it is “an exciting initiative” that will empower and engage the aged care workforce to an unprecedented extent. 

“What we want at the end is that ability for aged care organisations to adopt evidence into practice so that we end up with an empowered and a capable aged care workforce, able to actually facilitate growth and do innovation within their organisation,” Gordon says.

Professor Sue Gordon, research director at the Centre for Growth and Translational Research, says that the new centre will empower the aged care workforce and enable academic research to be better translated to improved health and wellbeing outcomes for older Australians and the workers that care for them

They key tenants of the centre are “growth” and “translation”- but what do these concepts relate to?

“When we talk about growth,” Gordon explains, “what we mean is the increased capacity to adopt products and technologies for aged care delivery.

“I think anyone who’s working in the aged care sector recognises that we still have many paper-based systems that would really benefit from digital adoption of technology, so that we actually free up the workforce to do the things that are most important to them.

Gordon also views cutting edge technologies such as avatars, robotics and assistive technologies as valuable assets in optimising care quality.  

“And really, we need this opportunity to look at how we embed that in the way that we deliver aged care in Australia,” she says.

Research done in a vacuum, shared only amongst academics, does little to benefit older Australians – and this is why translational research is such a key focus of the institute.

“When we talk about translational research, we’re talking about the adoption of evidence into practice across aged care,” Gordon says.

“It sounds really simple, doesn’t it? Somebody does a research project, comes up with great finding, and then we just go about doing it.”

“But it’s really not that simple.

“The implementation of research evidence is actually quite difficult, and we know that, really, very little of it actually gets put into practice.

“So this is the opportunity to pick up the evidence to give the workforce the capability to adapt it adopt it contextualise it for the setting, so that we can have better evidence-based practice in aged care.”

Professor Gillian Harvey, Matthew Flinders Fellow and professor of health services and implementation research in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, says that the centre’s Aged Care Partnering Program (ACPP), of which she is co-director, is underpinned by the awareness that research is only valuable to an organisation if it is applicable, and well translated, to practical outcomes in the field. 

A five week orientation program will cap of the start of an ongoing relationship between participant organisations and the Flinders University research team, which will see the two bodies working together to identify clear problems/research targets.

“… the aim is that we will produce an organisational-relevant project proposal that aims to address the problem that the innovator has come with in an evidence-informed way,” Harvey says.

“So they’ll come out of that five weeks with a project plan and proposal… the innovator takes that project proposal back to their own organisation and they run it as a local implementation project to address their problem and the solution that they’ve identified.”

“And then they’ll have opportunities to join ongoing communities of practice within the centre.”

Professor Gillian Harvey, expert in implementation science, says that the centre’s Aged Care Partnering Program will empower aged care organisations to develop a clear plan to address key issues within their care settings.

Whilst the potential for innovation is endless, CTGR researchers note that during the first year of the centre’s operation, their focus will be on four critical care areas:

  • dementia care
  • restorative/rehabilitative care
  • mental health and wellbeing
  • social isolation

The first round of funding will supplement 60 translational research grants, with research focusing on testing models of care.

This includes looking into how care and clinical activities are organised, delivered by different workers, and deployed in different care settings.

Led by Flinders University, training, research, and development programs will be conducted throughout Australia, with research partners in every state.

The CTGR will employ 30 staff and deliver 600 internships for aged care workers.

There will be significant engagement and opportunity for Indigenous communities, with 60 training places dedicated to those aged care workers providing care to Indigenous Australians.

This three-year initiative is supported by the Federal Government, bolstered by significant in-kind contributions provided by the supporting partners.

To find out more about the initiative and the esteemed Flinders research team at the helm and to subscribe to the centre’s newsletter, follow this link.

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