May 27, 2019

How Do You Positively Change The Culture Of An Aged Care Workplace?

Establishing a culture within a workplace environment takes a lot of time and repetition.

While all working staff will be asked to adhere to best practice methods, it takes a committed group of individuals to ensure that this standard is maintained at all times and this is extremely important when that workplace happens to be an aged care facility.

Unlike the vast majority of workplaces, aged care facilities are actually a home to the residents within its walls, creating an environment that operates more like a joint community rather than than the average workplace or household, and the elderly residents rely on aged care staff to provide safety and care within that community by doing their respective jobs to the absolute best of their ability.

Nurses, Carers, Cleaners, Chefs, Administrators, and Management, all have a vital role to play within the ecosystem of an aged care facility, and this combination of individual skill sets and personalities come together to form a working culture which ultimately dictates the quality of their resident’s experience.

Great working cultures are built on positive attitudes from staff members and the stability of routine and procedure, and while these elements are present in the vast majority of aged care facilities, providing quality care requires the flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing needs of residents.

Implementing change is a big deal in a working environment as it can take significant time and effort, but the consequences of not adapting to issues within an aged care facility can have dire consequences for elderly residents, and the only way those managing a facility can truly understand what changes need to be made, is from the feedback given by the staff who spend the most time with residents and have the ability to identify issues that require solutions.

Unfortunately, not all aged care staff always feel as though their feedback is always welcome, and this is especially the case for staff that have just entered a working environment.

Sometimes, the fear of speaking up and potentially ‘rocking the boat’ can even deter the most established aged care staff from flagging potential issues with management, and over time, this can lead to a drop off in the quality of care and potentially create a culture that looks to conceal issues rather than addressing them.

Great care requires upper management that encourages dialogue from their staff regarding process improvement, and there is no greater example of the positive impact that this can have on both staff and residents, than the atmosphere that you encounter when you walk through the doors at Donwood Community Aged Care in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

Although Donwood was already a well established and respected aged care provider, Donwood CEO, Natasha Wilkinson, decided to reinvest in the education of her staff for the betterment of Donwood residents.

“No matter who you are at Donwood, you’re important. You could be the cleaner, you can be the CEO, you can be in the kitchen – it doesn’t matter, because if your a part of Donwood you have a role to play, and that role is to make a difference in our residents’ lives,” said Natasha.

Donwood enlisted the expertise of Vative Healthcare who have proven themselves to be one of Australia’s premiere aged care training providers due to their ability to empower staff with leadership skills as well as the practical skills and processes required to provide quality aged care.

The partnership between Vative Healthcare and Donwood had a significant impact on the working environment and encouraged staff to not only identify issues within the facility but to create and implement their own strategies and initiatives to provide solutions and improve the quality of life for their residents in general.

Allowing staff to create this level of impact on their own working environment lets them know that they are valuable and can make a significant difference to the lives of the residents that they care for, which strengthens their commitment to their responsibilities and their sense of leadership.

“We’ve just loved the partnership with Vative (Healthcare) it’s actually brought a confidence into our staff, Vative (Healthcare) nurtured them and showed them their full potential, it was amazing to see them shine at the end,” said Natasha.

Through their Vative Healthcare training, Donwood staff identified 45 areas within Donwood where they saw room for improvement, which staff then used as the catalyst to create their solutions and programs to improve the lives of the Donwood residential community.

“We’ve had 45 projects that the staff had seen that needed to be improved, and they have run with that, and then at the end they have come out with something that’s made an impact on their life – because they’ve been successful, and an impact on the resident’s life, which has had a major impact here at Donwood,” said Natasha.

Educator and Consultant at Vative Healthcare, Maree O’Dwyer, worked closely with Donwood staff throughout their journey and saw firsthand the transformation in their confidence and the environment of Donwood as a whole.

“I’ve seen them grow in their development of personality and confidence, and what I have seen there is that they (Donwood) are really invested in wanting to make improvements constantly, and they have such love for their people.”

“The energy, the culture is all there, why wouldn’t they keep improving? You can walk in there any day and you will feel it, it’s the people, the people make that place,” said Marree.

Donwood staff implemented a wide variety of changes to processes within their facility, with practical changes like ensuring that all shower chairs were always in the same spot, all the way through to the construction of a small chicken enclosure that gives residents a sense of purpose by having something to care for, and memorial books for the families of residents who have passed away.

Personal Care Assistant, Beverely Pidduck, spends her days working closely with the residents of Donwood and highlighted the impact that training has had on the work processes and the wellbeing of their residents.

“The relationship we now have with our residents because of our Vative Healthcare course would be that we get more time, we can generally spend quality time talking to them and doing the little things that they like to do,” said Beverely.

“They just might want to have a coffee with you, so if we get that extra 5 minutes because we’ve saved time looking for shower chairs then it’s a big bonus for residents because they want your time, they want to be able to speak to a normal person and not someone who is rushed and trying to do their job.”

“Donwood is an amazing place to work.”


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