Bright future for aged care

Nurses and students attending the recent NSWNA aged care forum were shown a range of new models of care and emerging career opportunities.

With a rapidly ageing population, and a health care sector undergoing significant reform, aged care nurses faces many challenges and changes in the years ahead.

NSWNA’s Aged Care Nurses Forum, held recently in Sydney, sought to address some of these issues directly. Boasting a range of speakers working on the cutting-edge of aged care, the forum attracted a large group of nurses passionate about the future of aged care in Australia and keen to proactively embrace the challenges ahead.

One speaker, Debbie Deasey, is breaking new ground as a Transitional Aged Care Nurse Practitioner at Port Macquarie Base Hospital – the first such position in the NSW public health system.

‘When I started in aged care I thought “hey, something’s not 100% right here” and I’ve been harassing the doctors and the system ever since,’ she laughed.

Debbie, a passionate advocate for advanced nursing practice, began her career as a ‘hospital domestic’ before going on to become an EN then an RN.

‘I didn’t think I’d succeed at study so I thought I’d just keep going until I failed – which never happened, thanks to the amazing support I’ve received from the health service and doctors,’ she said.

‘In fact, most local GPs have welcomed this collaboration.’

Debbie has since attained her Masters in Gerontology and is currently completing her Masters of Nursing – Nurse Practitioner.

In a fascinating and highly engaging presentation, Debbie explained how the North Coast Area Health Service had identified a high incidence of ongoing aged presentations to the ED in Port Macquarie and sought a nurse practitioner to ease the burden.

Working in close collaboration with doctors and the NCAHS, Debbie is developing a functional model to treat chronic and acute, low-complexity medical conditions within residential aged care facilities, rather than transferring patients to EDs as is the current practice.

In what has been described as a win-win-win situation for patients, nurses and the health service, the NCAHS estimates that Debbie has saved Port Macquarie Base Hospital’s ED $1.5m this year alone, while providing much faster and more personalised care to patients – further reducing ED representations and other hospital and ambulance costs.

Debbie was particularly impressed with the number of young student nurses attending the aged care forum.

‘It is great to see them here. I think nurses are becoming much more aware of the improved pathways to advanced practice.’

Shristi Tuladhar is one of the new generation of nurses keen to pursue advanced practice and is about to complete her nursing degree at the Australian Catholic University at North Sydney.

Shristi was inspired to practice in aged care after the death of her grandfather several years ago.

‘This has been my goal for four years, now I’m looking forward to getting some clinical practice so I can undertake my Masters in Nursing,’ she said.