10 tips for making the most of your aged care placement

Top tips for aged care students

More than 100 members of the group responded, with advice that reflected the group’s depth and breadth of experience.

We include below some of the main themes to emerge from their recommendations.

1. Show empathy and compassion towards the residents

This, of course, is key. The resident should be at the centre of all you do. 

Engage with the residents, and take the time to get to know them. 

“Enjoy the residents,” one commenter wrote. 

Treat them with respect and dignity, while also maintaining a sense of humour.

Talk to them in a calm and friendly manner.

Find out about their lives – “it’s amazing what they come up with,” wrote one commenter.

“Remember, it’s your workplace, but their home,” another gave as an important reminder.

“Treat them as you would your own grandparents,” one commenter observed.

Be gentle. Don’t rush. Listen to the residents.

2. Learn from the residents

In a similar vein, the residents will be your best teacher. Explain that to them, and you will make them feel they have some control over how they are cared for. 

Ask them what they would like. 

As you perform your tasks, talk to them, tell them what you’re doing, and ask them to provide you with feedback.

3. Show initiative

This message came through strongly. 

“Try not to just stand around,” one person said. “Be as helpful as possible.”

“Don’t stand back. Be a willing participant.”

4. Ask questions

As the old adage goes, ‘There’s no such thing as a silly question.’ 

Your placement is a time to gain invaluable first-hand knowledge from experienced workers in the sector. Use the time wisely. Keep your ears and eyes open, and ask for clarification every time you are uncertain about how to proceed.

Learn the correct way to do things, without cutting corners.

One commenter suggested taking a notebook so you can write things down.

Be confident. Communicate clearly.

5. Read the care plans

One member of the support group suggested it’s a good idea to read the residents’ care plans, even if it means going in early to do so. You can make a note of which residents require two-hourly toileting. If some residents tend to act on their unmet needs, there should be advice about how best to manage such situations.

“It takes time, but the better you know your residents, the quicker and easier your job becomes,” she wrote.

6. Work on a range of shifts

Night duty can be quite different to working during the day. It’s useful to learn about both while you are on a placement, so ask if you can work on a range of different shifts to broaden your experience.

And don’t feel you have to accept every shift offered to you. Only work when it’s suitable for you.

7. Stand up for yourself

Many people who work in aged care have done so for years, and some may forget what it’s like to be starting out. If your mentor appears frustrated you are taking too long or you aren’t picking up a task quickly enough, try not to take it personally. It’s just that the work is very familiar to them. Take a few deep breaths.

If you find yourself partnered with someone who is difficult to learn from – whatever the reason may be – you can ask to be partnered with someone else.

8. Wear comfortable shoes

This one’s a no brainer. You will be on your feet for extended periods. It’s worth investing in a comfortable and supportive pair of shoes.

9. Don’t get involved in office politics

If you hear gossip or nastiness, walk away. Don’t get involved.

10. Smile!

A simple smile can brighten a resident’s day – and it will also put you in a more positive frame of mind. Look after yourself over the course of your shift to ensure you can maintain your energy levels and stay alert. Eat regularly and drink plenty of water. 

Members of the support group were generous sharing their broad range of knowledge and experience about aged care, but two comments stood out.

“Have fun with it. It’s not always easy work, but it’s very rewarding.”

“At the end of the day you will feel exhausted, but happy knowing you’ve done a job and helped many people.”

Enjoy the placement, students, and HelloCare wishes you all the best for your aged care career.

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