A new course has been designed to equip healthcare professionals with the skills needed to address the complexities of aged care.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought residential care facilities for older people into sharp focus, unearthing distinct challenges for medical practitioners in these complex settings. With a growing ageing population, experts say this is an important opportunity to build on our knowledge and the agility displayed during a time of crisis to advance the future of care for older people in Ireland.
The RCPI will launch a new certificate in clinical care for residential facilities, commencing in September. The course, designed to equip healthcare professionals with practical skills to better address the complexities of aged care in residential facilities, will create meaningful opportunities for participants to collaborate and provide insights to drive the future of the sector.
It was developed by Prof Dermot Power, a Consultant in Geriatric Medicine at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin, in collaboration with a group of colleagues across multiple specialties and disciplines. The certificate has been designed specifically for physicians and general practitioners who have an interest in the care of the older person in these settings.
Announcing the programme, Prof Power said that the timing is right for a course like this.
“The pandemic has confronted the sector with numerous challenges and compelled us to look and see how we might do things better in some areas,” he stated.
“Over the past two years, it has become evident that there is some work to be done to gain better understanding of our nursing homes and the challenges and opportunities of providing care in these congregated settings.
“Although they do have some elements in common, nursing homes or residential care facilities are not the same as hospitals and while they are places of residence, they’re also distinct from the home environment due to the fact that there are large numbers of people together in communal spaces.
“What the pandemic showed us is that our understanding and expectation of these facilities is evolving and there is perhaps an opportunity now to review the current standards and practices and inform and support doctors in this area.
“The development of this course has prompted some very timely discussions and has been a great opportunity to exchange experiences and learn from the challenges we’ve all faced over the last couple of years.”
There are four main topics that are covered in this course in relation to the clinical care of the older person within residential facilities. Learners will complete modules on governance, ethical and legal issues, clinical care of the older person, and technology in quality and risk management.
The programme will focus on the treatment and management of a wide range of conditions and clinical presentations associated with older people in residential care facilities. Participants will engage with issues specific to those settings, such as the prescribing and deprescribing of drugs, communication with patients and families, liaising with hospitals, and the appropriate use of technology and statistics to inform future practice.
Ethical and legal issues encountered by medical practitioners in aged care settings are emphasised throughout the programme. According to Prof Power, there will be a strong emphasis on the ethics around end-of-life care.
“Average life expectancy in a nursing home is about two years,” he said.
“We must be able to manage that so that the patient’s dignity is respected and their healthcare is optimised. Increasingly healthcare decisions are coupled with considerations of how to increase our patient’s comfort and respect their autonomy.
“We have an ageing population and there needs to be a concerted effort by all healthcare professionals to ensure that the future of old age in Ireland is one that promises everyone a healthier, more secure, and fulfilled later life.”
Prof Power graduated in 1991 from University College Dublin and trained at the Mater Hospital, ultimately specialising in geriatric medicine. He has trained at the John Radcliffe Hospital and Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford and was awarded his MD from University College Dublin in 2002.
His special interests include dementia, health service planning, and medical ethics.
Other speakers on the programme will be made up of leading experts in geriatric medicine as well as those working in residential care facilities. Prof Shaun Timothy O’Keeffe, a Consultant Geriatrician based in Galway, has conducted extensive research in geriatrics in his eight years at NUI Galway Department of Medicine and worked on the development of the codes of practice for the upcoming Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act.
Another of the distinguished speakers will be Prof Karen Ryan, Consultant in Palliative Medicine at the Mater and St Francis Hospice, and Clinical Professor in the School of Medicine at University College Dublin.
Along with experts in end-of-life care and geriatrics, the course will deliver a multi-disciplinary approach, with contributions from speakers across different relevant medical specialties including Consultant in Infectious Disease Prof Jack Lambert and Consultant Psychiatrist Prof Matthew Sadlier.
Prof Lambert is based at the Mater Hospital and is Associate Professor at UCD School of Medicine. He emerged as a leading voice in the area of infectious diseases during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Angela Fitzgerald, Chief Executive Officer of HIQA, will be a guest speaker on the programme. Prior to her appointment as HIQA CEO in March 2022, Ms Fitzgerald served as Deputy National Director of Acute Operations in the HSE.
The certificate in clinical care for residential facilities emphasises the role of regulation and governance and the models of care that are present in Ireland. It also highlights the critical role that multidisciplinary teams play, along with expert communications and teamwork, across clinical settings.
On completion of the certificate, you will have a better understanding of common clinical scenarios, a wealth of best practice care examples to draw from and enhanced insights around medical outcomes in the care of older people. You will develop an understanding of the different clinical governance models that apply for physicians working in residential care settings as well as the ethical, legal, psychological, and social aspects of care of older persons.
According to Prof Power, communication is key when working within the residential care setting.
“You need to be able to communicate effectively with older people and their families and carers in order to look after them properly and to manage their expectations effectively. Communicating with hospitals is also an important skill to learn.”
Candidates will also learn about data management, reporting, reporting obligations and the role of the physician in the governance, management, and accountability within residential care facilities, while also learning to recognise the basic tools of quality improvement with practical application in your healthcare environment.
This certificate has been designed for doctors working in Ireland who seek to develop expertise in medical care for the older person in residential settings. It will be of interest to a wide range of disciplines, such as GPs, doctors considering a career in geriatrics, community health doctors, and trainees.
You can book your place now on the RCPI website. This article was produced by the RCPI.