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OET champions communication skills in aged care sector

aged care nurses communicating with patient

Read our Submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care

Last year, we developed and presented a submission to the Australian Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Our recommendations can help ensure Australia’s aged care workforce possesses effective and contextually relevant communication skills.

We made the submission because we believe that communication skills and English proficiency are essential to the success of the Aged Care sector. Not only do they ensure patients are equal partners in their own care, but they also help prevent errors and adverse effects that cost lives.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

In 2018, the Australian government set up The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Its mandate has been to investigate the quality of aged care services in Australia and whether they meet the needs of the Australian community.

It has received nearly 10,000 submissions with just more than 6,300 telephone calls to the information line. The most common concerns raised were staffing issues, isolation, and unmet needs.

The Commission will deliver the final report in February 2021.

The OET submission

Our submission looked at the role of communication in aged care and its effect on patient safety and quality of care. We specifically explored four terms of reference:

  • People with disabilities and/or living with dementia
  • Person-centred care
  • End-of-life care
  • Good practice and innovative models.

The submission looked first at the financial and human cost of poor communication, with examples from the US and Australia. It then explored the areas where communication breaks down, drawing attention to everyday care, clinical settings and pharmaceutical delivery.

We drew on sources that showed the impact of poor communication skills on handover processes, especially in relation to patients with comorbidities (which is about 1 in 3 over 65-year olds).

We also provided evidence that communication is the root cause of up to 70% of preventable events that harm patients in the US.

Communication best practice

As we work closely with experts in the field of healthcare communication, we have strong expertise in this area.

Our submission provided feedback on communication best practice across several areas, including patient-centred care, communicating with people living with dementia and within multidisciplinary teams.

With over 440,000 people living with dementia in Australia, communication plays a crucial role in their care. Skills such as active listening, choosing appropriate language and showing empathy can make a major difference to a person’s life.

Similarly, highly developed communication skills play a crucial role in the success of multidisciplinary teams in aged care. Whether in dementia care, palliative care or general healthcare, a team is only successful when it is built on open and effective clinical communication.

Recommendations to the Royal Commission

We provided recommendations across three areas that we believe will facilitate the success of aged care services:

  • Strong English language and communication assessment framework
  • Better measures of good communication
  • Ongoing communication training

We believe our recommendations can help ensure Australia’s aged care workforce possesses effective and contextually relevant communication skills, which are essential to the sector providing effective support to people with dementia, comorbidities and life-ending conditions.

If you would like to read through the whole submission, you can access the PDF version on our website.