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Oct 2018

Interactive intercultural learning resource for staff in aged care launches with UniSA

Blog posts

Sally Danbury

Sally Danbury

Nurture Marketing Specialist at Kineo APAC

The better we know the language and culture, the person and the situation, the better we are at intercultural communication also, in the context of addressing care, challenging behaviours and unmet needs.

The University of South Australia is Australia’s University of Enterprise. Their culture of innovation is anchored around global and national links to academic, research and industry partners. Kineo is proud of its collaboration with the university to build an interactive learning resource for staff in aged care. The learning content has been developed by researchers from the Research Centre for Languages and Cultures, University of South Australia, in collaboration with management and staff at Helping Hand and South Cross Care and Kineo, specialists in the delivery of personalised learning experiences that drive better outcomes across organisations.

Why an intercultural approach to communicating care and safety across aged care? 


“In contemporary aged care settings, staff and clients bring together increasingly diverse languages, cultures and faiths to communicating and providing care and safety,” researcher Dr Fiona O’Neill says. “And when those receiving care have complex health profiles such as dementia, communication becomes even more complex.”

Ultimately, the challenge for the sector will continue to grow as Australia’s population continues to experience the ‘ageing of the aged’ and the ‘diversification of diversity’.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) is used as a convenient label in policies and guidelines, yet it can stunt understanding in providing for care and safety if communication is not recognised as intercultural and therefore everyone’s responsibility. We each need to understand where the individual comes from linguistically to understand and exchange meanings. It is this process we refer to as ‘intercultural orientation.’

“Our approach is to recognise that we all contribute to diversity, and we all need to become aware of our part in contributing to understanding one another in our diversity”, adds Fiona O’Neill.

The communication of care and safety in aged care has become complex because of a significant growth in linguistic and cultural diversity, due to both an ageing migrant population and the presence of migrant nurses and care workers in this sector. Caring for the elderly in this context is known to be physically and psychologically demanding. Compounding this complexity is that aged care workers must manage residents with complex health profiles, including dementia. Dementia is associated with challenging behaviours or unmet needs that can complicate communication, care and safety. Staff need professional development to be able to understand and manage these behaviours in contexts of linguistic and cultural diversity, specifically, how to communicate and enact care and safety.


How were the resources developed? 

Firstly, to identify the opportunities and challenges for communicating care and safety,

an immersive collaborative exercise with staff and management of the participating organisations was conducted. Incident reports were scrutinised, focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with trainers, nurses and care workers were carried out.

The outcome of the project is a set of four professional learning modules that reflect principles of intercultural learning.

The modules, which incorporate video clips and a guide for facilitators, were developed in four stages. The first stage comprised an analysis of critical incident reports; focus groups comprising nursing, care and training staff; and video interviews with the staff and residents. The second stage, designing the modules, drew on the data and findings of this project and the data and recommendations of the original study. The third stage involved trialling, evaluation and revision, and the fourth stage, finalisation and dissemination. The modules cover five key interrelated themes around accomplishing safety and care in the workplace in the context of increasing linguistic and cultural diversity:

  1. The ways in which behaviours / needs are understood, with a clinical focus on conditions associated with challenging behaviours / unmet needs and their implications
  2. The layer of complexity added to communication by linguistic, cultural and faith-based diversity
  3. Attentiveness to language / how we communicate
  4. The value placed on knowing the person, their personal history, life journey and memories
  5. Risk management: tension between notions of ‘being at home’ and the accomplishment of care within the efficiency model.

Each module builds on the other, focusing on an aspect of practice while maintaining a common orientation relevant to workers at all levels of the organisation: carers, enrolled nurses, registered nurses, trainers and managers. The modules are designed for flexible delivery, on- or off-line, and incorporate a four-segment structure that can be adapted to the needs and interests of participants and the professional development time available.

The work of the researchers and participating organisations was recently recognised when they won the 2017 Governor’s Multicultural Award for the resource, which goes beyond standard approaches to communicating care and safety and conventional understandings of working together in diversity.

The project focused on:

  • supervisory staff training
  • direct care staff training

It was developed collaboratively and implemented with staff in two industry sites. The professional learning was designed to equip them with practical strategies to communicate care and safety more effectively, particularly when faced with challenging behaviours or unmet needs.

What learning has been gleaned from the project?

This project has sought to challenge some of the understandings and assumptions that have long underpinned work, education and training in aged care, and the health sector more broadly. With the aged care sector in transition from institutionalised models of care to ‘person centred’ care, the focus has been on people and the relational nature of communication. It is significant that at every phase of the project and development of the professional learning resource, the researchers have worked in close collaboration with people who understand the importance of communicating safety and care and the consequences for all involved.

From the outset, the project has sought to model an intercultural orientation to communicating in complex diversity and working together, by drawing on the collective expertise available in the workplace across the diverse organisational roles and responsibilities, and the diverse languages and cultures in play.

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Sally Danbury

Sally Danbury

Nurture Marketing Specialist at Kineo APAC

Since the year immemorial Sally has exercised an avid passion for creativity with words, images and Pilates.  She is most content in the workplace when crafting enticing messages that inspire and engage.