News & Events

Students taught the art of caring

October 11, 2017

Singaporean nursing student Saravanan Ganasan came to Liscombe House to learn about aged care nursing. He left with more than he anticipated.  Importantly, he discovered that caring for the elderly involves more than clinical care, it involves a holistic approach to the person’s wellbeing.


Saravanan, and five other students from Singapore’s Nanyang Polytechnic, did their month-long aged care placement at OCAV’s aged care facility at Leith Park. It was the first time OCAV participated in the overseas student placement program, managed by La Trobe University, but it’s unlikely to be the last.


Saravanan, in the final months of his three-year Diploma in Nursing, said the placement gave the Singaporean students a great insight into a different way of caring for the elderly.


“In many ways the clinical care was very similar to Singapore, but the other programs offered at Liscombe House, such as diversional therapy and recreational activities do not happen in Singapore facilities,” Saravanan said.


“Apart from the emotional benefits, the activities and diversional therapy means the residents are more active and participate in things, rather than just sit in chairs.”


“There are so many programs in place, such as the pet therapy and the art program, that include all the residents, including those with high care needs and dementia. It’s an approach that I think is really good for the residents because it looks after their spiritual and emotional needs and not just their physical requirements.”


“In Singapore the care of the elderly happens in a much more medical setting. Here the facilities and care offered allows the residents to experience some of the familiar things they had in their own homes. Even having a hairdresser in the place means it feels less like a medical setting. It is an approach I will definitely take back to Singapore with me.”


The six students rotated around Liscombe House, spending time in the high care, low care and dementia units fine-tuning their clinical practices, wound dressing, use of equipment, and knowledge of compliance and regulations.


The experience was a win-win for OCAV and Director of Nursing Shaaron Robilliard believes the residents and staff also benefited from the program. La Trobe ran education programs during the month of the students’ placement and OCAV staff attended when possible. The sessions covered issues such as behavioural management, clinical compliance and the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.


“The students bring a new energy to Liscombe House because they do have the time to sit and talk to residents when the staff may not, especially if there are several residents with issues that need to be addressed immediately,” Shaaron said.


“While it means we have extra hands to help the residents, it is an added pressure on our senior staff who are supervising students.”


One of those staff is Liscombe House supervisor Shirley Leach who agrees with Saravanan’s assessment that the OCAV staff are encouraged to take a holistic approach to a residents’ care. It is a philosophy she worked hard to impart to the students.


“In aged care we try to create an environment for the residents that is more like home than a hospital, while still maintaining all the clinical practices. Nurses might think that making a patient’s bed is a mundane part of their job, but I impress upon the students that these jobs create a wonderful opportunity to develop a relationship with the resident. To talk to them and to find out if anything is worrying them. That’s so important because then when it is time for you to do a procedure the resident is more comfortable with you, they trust you. Taking the time to make a resident comfortable is the difference between a good nurse and an average nurse,” Shirley said.


While Saravanan and his colleagues were the first overseas students to do a placement at Liscombe House, the facility has been hosting students for many years.


Shirley, who has been at Liscombe House for 14 years said many of the good students have later returned as staff members.


Dorothy Clayton has felt very much ‘at home’ since she moved into Braeside Park nine years ago. Now, Dorothy, the village’s volunteer pastoral care worker, tries to ensure that others also feel a sense of belonging in the Berwick village.

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