Improving work health environment 

5 September 2022

Article from July 2022 edition of INPractice 

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) has begun a two-year project as a partnership between ReturnToWorkSA and ANMF (SA Branch).

This partnership proposes the implementation of a framework that provides a systematic approach in the reduction of health care workers injuries in aged care setting and will be open to any aged care facility interested in implementing the program. 

This framework will use Registered Nurses Association, Ontario (RNAO): Best Practice guidelines to address how to recognise, prevent violence and other injury and translate into practice in the workplace. It will focus on the following areas:

  • Risk assessment tools and strategies
  • Organisational policies, procedures, requirements, and responsibilities
  • Educational approaches and strategies
  • Implementation strategies and tools for organisations
  • Evaluation criteria

Working in the aged care industry can be a rewarding and satisfying career choice, but it's not without its hazards. Sprains and strains caused by activities such as lifting, pushing, pulling, and bending are by far the greatest contributor to the overall injuries suffered by aged care workers.

The pressure of work demands is seen as leading to workers rushing their tasks and staff shortages meant that they are working alone rather than alongside co-workers.
Some health care workers also acknowledged that they themselves did not follow recommended WHS protocols due to work pressures when working with residents. 

A fifth of the mature-aged respondents described having health problems or injuries which were thought related to having worked in aged care for an extended time. 

Several noted that their conditions were in part a consequence of less stringent policies around manual handling and lifting in previous years. The cumulative stress caused by constant overwork was also reported to have taken an emotional toll for some older workers. [1] 

Healthy work environments are practice settings that maximise the health and well-being of nurses and other health care workers and improve organisational performance and patient, client, resident, and societal outcomes.
They are comprised of numerous components, including physical, structural, and policy components; professional and occupational components; and cognitive, psychological, sociological, and cultural components. These components, and the relationships among them, make them complex and multidimensional. [2]

The healthy work environment model will be based on the RNAO best practice guidelines (BPGs) which focus on bringing best evidence to practice and promotes consistency and excellence in clinical care, administrative practices, policies, and education.

The model is designed for flexible delivery and by various modes such as online, face to face and workshops that can be adapted to the needs and interest of the participants and the professional development time available. 

In recognition of the challenges that face all workers within the aged care sector, we are keen to promote an environment that supports and protects staff in their daily work. 

Working in partnership with the ANMF (SA Branch), implementing this model will give participating sites/ providers the opportunity to create a positive work environment for all staff. 

"This partnership emerged following conversations with RTWSA when I expressed a view that injury prevention was far better than cure,” CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said. 

"The RTWSA CEO agreed with that sentiment, encouraging us to engage in further discussions to see where our agreement on principle could take us. That dialogue was extremely productive. 

"Since that time, the ANMF team has worked brilliantly to work on a program in partnership with RTWSA that will assist in focusing on prevention rather than cure.

“I am delighted with the progress by the team and look forward to outcomes being achieved by this important new initiative”.

Research has shown that safe and healthy work environments are enablers for nurses and care staff to optimise outcomes for those receiving the care and optimise the learning setting for these staff.

To create a culture of safety and care, capable leadership is essential to assist providers to attract and retain staff with the necessary skills and experience to their workforce. Investing in education provides workers with the opportunities to grow and learn, strengthens the delivery of safe, high-quality care, and supports regulatory compliance. [4] 

The program is aimed at creating opportunities for staff to build expertise by promoting and supporting knowledge transfer, supporting facilities to promote the use of evidence-based practice, teaching staff to develop plans that can be sustained and spread, and integrating evidence-based practice into quality improvement plans and activities. 

Research has shown that the ability to transfer knowledge to practice has enormous implications for nurses and health care workers. 

By integrating the knowledge gained during training, il will provide improvements to the care and outcomes for residents and staff, improved adherence by staff to the approved processes and methods of providing care as greater understanding of the reasoning aids compliance, enabling staff to implement new and improved care methods to achieve efficacy and efficiency.

1. Australian Government, Department of Health (March 2017) THE AGED CARE WORKFORCE, 2016
2. RNAO (2019), Preventing Violence. Harassment and Bullying against Health Workers, Best Practice Guidelines.
3. Harris GE & Cameron JE (2005) Multiple Dimensions of organizational Identification and Commitment as Predictors of Turnover Intentions and Psychological Well-Being. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science. 37(3): 159-169
4. Recruiting. retaining and empowering the aged care workforce I PwC Australia. https:/­care-royal-comm1ssionlworkforce.html

Click here to read the July 2022 edition of INPractice.