How to Deliver Effective Aged Care Covid Compliance Staff Training

November 25, 2020

Creating a culture of covid compliance: it starts with staff training

Your guide to aged care covid compliance staff training

Now that you have a covid safe policy in place, it’s vital to establish staff compliance via initial briefings and continual assessment. Staff are your frontline in the delivery of covid safe practices. So it’s essential to have your aged care covid safe compliance training program ready to go for your team.

Today, we’re sharing tips on how to implement an effective training program. It will help you create a culture of adherence and lifelong dedication to safety and hygiene measures.

Aged care covid compliance staff training: your workplace obligations

You have an obligation to make the workplace safe for your employees. If a staff member is infected with covid-19 at work, you can be liable. Under Victorian WorkCover laws, it is the duty of the employer to keep staff safe from covid infection. Safe Work NSW has similar legislation outlining the employer’s duty of care.

Not to mention the risk of further outbreaks amongst staff and residents. There is the potential for damage to the operations, income and business viability of your aged care facility should an outbreak occur amongst staff (or residents).

There’s another layer of complication to your obligations regarding covid safe training. Each separate facility is able to interpret guidelines as it sees fit. This results in varying levels of commitment to covid safe training.

You have both a legal risk and the strong business case for the continued effective operation of your aged care facility. Therefore, we strongly recommend giving staff training your sustained commitment and attention. The risks to your residents, staff and facility are simply too great to consider otherwise.

The triple threat approach to staff training

To be effective, staff training needs to progress beyond a single training session to a deeply-seated cultural practice. Introducing this kind of cultural shift is no mean feat. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are a highly adaptable, motivated and agile than we realise.

So, we suggest a long term commitment to staff training comprising the three of our ‘triple threat’ elements:

  • online training
  • in-person training, workshops and events (if permitted under your state’s restrictions)
  • ongoing monitoring and management

Often, facilities are motivated to a ‘tick the box’ approach. Online training should not be the core element of its aged care covid safe staff training plan. Even though there are excellent online training resources available, this only goes so far.

Takeaway: Training must be backed up by in-person discussions. Then, training should be followed up with ongoing monitoring to ensure compliance to be truly effective.

Meeting complex staff needs

We closely with aged care facilities in Victoria and New South Wales. Consequently, we often see training that misses the mark. This is mostly due to the level of comprehension required of staff.

When your team is bombarded with messages, all rather complex and detailed, they suffer from ‘information fatigue’. They’re reading the words on the page, but the message is not really sinking in. Or they are passing the staff noticeboard every day but not really paying heed to the important messages displayed.

The other challenge can be with staff’s language capabilities. With many aged care workers having English as a second language. Detailed briefings using jargon and flowery language is difficult for them to comprehend.

Then, there’s the mindset of staff who are feeling anxious about covid. Being potentially being at risk while at work is alarming. Stressed out staff suffering anxiety may be less likely to digest constant bombardment of important messaging.

Takeaway: use multiple communication channels, reduce flow of staff communication and ensure messaging is simple and concise to boost comprehension. Enlist translation services to distribute updates in your staff’s native languages.

Appoint infection control safety officers

Like any change in the workplace, staff need to be supported as they learn how to follow the guidelines and implement new practice. Eventually, the habits will become second nature. They’ll follow policy on autopilot. At this stage, the cultural influence becomes powerful. As everyone supports everyone else to continually adhere to the policy. Until this stage, a little more attention is necessary.

So, creating a team of infection control safety officers will ensure that staff learn while on the job until it becomes inherent. This will ensure small breeches don’t become ongoing habits and help staff address issues before they become non-compliant. Even though their role is primarily surveillance, the name safety reflects the commitment to staff health and negates the risk of staff fearing they are ‘being watched.’

The safety officers should be tasked with mentoring and supporting staff as they learn how to comply. When surveillance officers notify a breech, they can then step in and explain to the individual how to do better next time. It’s important to create a culture of caring rather than judging. Having said that, breeches are important and staff should be stood down if repeated reminders do not instil a change in behaviour.

Key takeaway: appoint infection control safety officers to support staff as they learn how to comply with covid safe policies

Using PPE equipment

The use of PPE equipment is the cornerstone of an effective aged care covid safe policy. The common breaches we see occur when:

  • new staff are joining the facility and haven’t been inducted prosperity
  • an urgent situation occurs (eg a resident has a fall) and staff rush to assist without following procedure, because they are focussed on the immediate need of residents
  • entry and exit points – arriving and departing the workplace, especially after breaks

Establishing a culture of supporting each other when breaches happen is the best solution to this common problem. A simple ‘hey you forgot your gloves’ should be encouraged and rewarded among your team. The presence of the safety officer can help too.

Takeaway: establish a culture of everyone supporting (and reminding) each other regarding adherence to policy.

Supporting staff’s additional workload

The other challenge that occurs with PPE compliance is the additional increments of time that add up during the day. Extra hand washing, surface cleaning and dressing, then removing PPE equipment are all micro tasks that take minutes. But the time adds up during the day.

If budget allows, allocating extra staff to be on duty to cover those additional moments makes a difference. It’s important for staff feel supported in adhering to new guidelines. Then, they are more likely to be enthusiastic about following them. Plus, conversely, if they feel pressured to get their job done AND follow even stricter protocols, they are more tempted to skip procedure as they rush tog et the job done.

Aged care covid compliance staff training, in short:

  • understand your workpolace obligations and the risk to your staff, residents and facility if you breach policy and a covid infection breaks out
  • invest in online training, face to face training and ongoing monitoring to ensure true acceptance
  • hire a safety office to monitor compliance and support staff learning
  • focus on establishing a culture of PPE compliance as the most important risk factor
  • support staff’s increased workload with additional resources where possible.

We can help deliver a staff training program to create culture change

We offer a number of aged care consulting services designed to help aged care facilities establish and maintain a compliant, efficient and harmonious workplace. Simply contact us to arrange a conversation and we will be happy to discuss your particular requirements.

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