Tuesday, February 3, 2009

eMentoring and aged care

I thought you might be interested in hearing about the eMentoring project I am currently working on at Aged Care Queensland (ACQI).

The aged and community care health sector in Queensland, Australia
ACQI is an association that has members from across the aged care sector which includes retirement villages, residential homes and community care providers. ACQI provides a number of different services such as education and professional development packages, advocacy and advice about a range of issues. Suffice to say, recruitment and retention is always a serious issue in this sector of health care provison, which ACQI is constantly working to address.

Staff recruitment and retention
It doesn't take much imagination to think why it is difficult to recruit people into aged care. The work is very challenging and can be physically very hard. Interestingly (and I am sorry I haven't got the reference to hand), people who work in the community ie those who provide care in the home, are happier and have greater job satisfaction. I suspect this is because they have greater control over how they work, and this equates to findings about the way community midwives work and job satisfaction.

Geographical isolation
The other major issue for Queensland is that it is a huge geographical area, and many health care staff work in rural and remote areas with little support, and minimal access to professional development. I have to admit that I didn't really appreciate just how isolated some communities are until I started talking to people here. It is so difficult to get a real sense of how big Queensland is until you come here and start looking around.

Supporting aged and community health care staff
The community care arm of ACQI has received government funding to implement an eMentoring scheme which aims to support staff, especially those who work in rural and remote areas, as well as indeginous and Torres Straits people.

My brief is to recruit people who feel they would benefit from being mentored, and experienced staff who have the skills and knowledge to pass on in the mentor's role. I have to match the couples or groups, provide mentoring education and support people as they develop their mentoring relationships. I also have to develop an eMentoring handbook/CD Rom which I am going to put a Creative Commons licence on.

Computer and digital literacy
It goes without saying that the biggest challenge for such a project is ensuring that people have access to appropriate equipment and the Internet. I will be required to do a needs analysis of people's computer skills and ability to access the Internet, and provide relevant training. I am hoping to introduce people to free communication mediums such as Skype, with the idea that this program is sustainable when the funding runs out.

Have you ever had anything with formal mentoring schemes? What were their good points and downsides? If you were going to join an eMentoring project as either mentor or mentee, what would be important to you?

Image: 'ekuverikamakee, gadha fadha baareh' notsogoodphotography


Helen said...

Hi Sarah
It's nice to have you back. I will reply briefly here and more in an email but I think you raise a really good point. In Australia, many workplaces will not provide access to most of the social network tools, and it makes it really difficult to develop the skills and equipment when you have to fit it all into your spare time.



Sarah Stewart said...

You're absolutely right, Helen. And I guess it's alright for me to talk because my work is at the computer so I can integrate all this stuff into my working life. But if you are busy out and about delivering meals on wheels, or providing nursing care on a ward, then social networking has less of a place to play.

For me, it is all about support and access to information when I need it. And recognising that increasingly sites like Facebook and YouTube are a legitimate place to go for support and information, and shouldn't be restricted because they are percieved as 'play' tools.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah - I have recently finished a project in a rural area about the effects of drought on mental health. One of the biggest barriers for staff working in small rural towns is the tyranny of distance and many reported to me their frustration at staying in touch with networks and receiving professional development and training. Also difficult to release staff for education. We looked at whether it would be possible to use video conferencing from QHealth facilities to extend this for isolated staff. However I believe your project could be very useful. I will pass on details to the Economic Development Organisation I reported to so they can follow up with you. I am now working on a NGO mental health project but good to see these kind of initiatives are out there even if uptake can be slow. Good Luck. Leigh.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Leigh, thanks for your comments. I have heard what you've said echoed time and time again in many different contexts. So if we know this to be true, why aren't 'we' (whoever 'we' is) doing more - I truly believe that excellent Internet access, resources and education will make a huge difference to people in rural areas - the sooner this is facilitated, the better.

Aged Care Christchurch said...

This is a great information to make people be in the know. I always value people who add value to the information available to educate their readers.

Sarah Stewart said...

Great to hear from someone representing aged care in NZ - cheers!