This study sought to identify core competencies for excellence in aged care which would drive change in how care is delivered at the BSL residential aged care facility, Sumner House.
The study was funded by the BSL/RMIT Teaching and Research in Aged Care Services (TRACS) ‘Sumner House Centre of Excellence’ project (2012-2014).
This project identified core skills, competencies and attributes of Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) staff providing support and care to residents at Sumner House, a residential aged care facility in Fitzroy, Melbourne. An adapted Delphi model was used to identify agreement but also divergence on the core competencies and attributes valued by the four groups - residents, staff, family, and management.
The study was one of five studies within the research program of the BSL/RMIT Teaching and Research in Aged Care Services (TRACS) (2012-2014), funded by the Federal Department of Social Services. The research was constructed to find consensus on the core competencies for high quality care and support among four stakeholder groups at Sumner House - residents, their families and friends, BSL aged care managers and Sumner House direct care staff.
The research identified 13 core competencies however only one, ‘Treat residents as people, not a job’, was found in the top ten of every stakeholder group. The core competencies were thought about by stakeholders in terms of three categories: know the person; skills and applied knowledge; and, approach to delivery. The study found that knowing the person was essential if skills are to be used in ways that reflect individual preferences and to understand an approach to delivery of care and support which constitutes dignity and quality for the person. These ideas span human rights, personalised care and the principles associated with relational services. They anticipate a number of corollaries:
- Care and support should be delivered in a thoughtful and considerate way. People should be treated with respect and the delivery should be predictable and reliable.
- Care and support that is not respectful and considerate simply adds to the challenges the person faces and creates additional angst, fear and resentment.
- ‘Trust’ is required for the delivery of high quality of services. Trust builds relationships, helps in getting to know the person and allows much more collaboration.
- The resident is the person at the centre of the care and support relationship. Relational approaches demonstrate that a person is cared about as well as being cared for.
- Use of a transactional approach in which staff ‘get through the job’ is often seen as ‘cold’ and ‘uncaring’. A ‘relational’ approach where care and support are reflected in knowing each other is far better.
The study found these underpinning values were equally as important as staff skills or competencies. However, the language used by staff and managers tended to emphasise training and skills whilst clients and families talked more about the relational qualities of care and its delivery. Sometimes the gap between these two discourses can prevent communication between the groups. It is vital to link values and skills with a detailed knowledge of the person when delivering support and care services.
A simple model of hands, head and heart were used to provide unifying ideas about policy, practice and service delivery. The findings can therefore be used by staff to adapt their service delivery and supports, by management to adapt policies and procedures, by residents in making claims of the service and by educational establishments in developing courses which reflect the competencies identified by four working groups and to increase their capabilities or potential to live enriched lives.
- Associate Professor Paul Ramcharan, Centre for Applied Social Research, RMIT
- Christina David, Research Officer, Centre for Applied Social Research, RMIT
- Martyn Jones, Associate Professor in Social Work, RMIT
- Rosetta Moors, Research Officer, Centre for Applied Social Research, RMIT