Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Developing Networks between Residential Aged Care Facilities as a Result of Engagement in a Falls Prevention Project: An Action Research Study

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Developing Networks between Residential Aged Care Facilities as a Result of Engagement in a Falls Prevention Project: An Action Research Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

As the world population ages (United Nations, 2013), health care services including nursing homes [referred to hereafter by the Australian term "residential aged care facilities" (RACFs)] are facing pressure to provide care for increasingly dependent resident populations (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2012; Boyd et al., 2011; Onder et al., 2012). An important consideration in dealing effectively with this demand is to promote the implementation of evidencebased best practice in RACFs to improve the quality of care provision, as has been reported in Canada (Kaasalainen et al., 2010), Australia (Masso & McCarthy, 2009) and the USA (Rahman, Applebaum, Schnelle, & Simmons, 2012). The formation of networks within the health care system is increasingly being recognised world-wide as a means to facilitate the development of capacity to implement evidence-based practices (Cunningham et al., 2012; French et al., 2009; Ghosh & Marquard, 2007).

Networks act as "mediating structures" (Walker, 1992: 262) to link people, agencies and services (Robinson, 2001). Relationships in networks are characterised by reciprocity (Powell, 1990) and the pursuit of "common or mutually beneficial goals or interests" (Oliver, 1990: 244). The benefits of networks centre on social capital (relationships) and intellectual capital (knowledge) (Fenton, Harvey, Griffiths, Wild, & Sturt, 2001). Social capital can facilitate the dispersal of information throughout the network and enables cooperative behaviour, while intellectual capital is created through collaboration and exchange amongst network members, particularly when members can contribute different resources (Powell, 1990).

Studies from the UK, USA and Australia have reported that RACF staff often operate in isolation (Robinson et al., 2005; Venturato, Kellett, & Windsor, 2006; Hasson, Kernohan, Waldron, Whittaker, & McLaughlin, 2008). RACF staff in these countries have been reported to lack networks with the wider health care sector (e.g. acute care, and specialist services) and with the higher education sector (Hasson et al., 2008; McConnell, Lekan, & Corazzini, 2010; Robinson et al., 2005; Robinson & Horner, 2014; Venturato et al., 2006). Contributing to this lack of networking between RACF staff and the wider health care and higher education sectors is the reported professional disengagement of facility staff (Hasson et al., 2008; Toles & Anderson, 2011; Venturato et al., 2006). The absence of networks between professionals and between RACFs and the wider health/education sectors undermines opportunities to build skills and knowledge and has adverse ramifications for the development of evidence-based practice in RACFs (Furaker & Agneta, 2013; Hasson et al., 2008; Kaasalainen et al., 2010; Venturato et al., 2006).

Although there is a recognition that more collaborative approaches need to be adopted across the residential aged care sector (Maly et al., 2012), little is known internationally about the degree to which RACFs network with each other and how the development of inter-facility networks might facilitate professional engagement. A previous Australian study identified that RACF staff were isolated from staff from other facilities and that networking between facilities increased motivation of nursing staff and provided an impetus for professional development (Robinson et al., 2005). Nursing staff from different facilities were able to compare issues and collaborate to take action to promote best practice. In addition, networking provided an opportunity to decrease financial demands by pooling resources to develop a collaborative professional development in-service programme (Robinson et al., 2005). Given the potential benefits of networking between RACFs, there is scope for building on the existing research. The networking literature suggests that networks are more likely to form between homogenous groups, as trust levels are higher, suggesting that formation of networks between RACFs could be successful (Powell, 1990). …

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