Aged care fieldwork inspires students

12 Dec 2017
speech pathology student and aged care resident
Students gain practical experience with ageing adults

Speech pathology students from The University of Queensland have had the opportunity to learn from aged care residents, as part of one of their first year courses ‘Communication across the lifespan’.

Students participated in a half day visit to the retirement village, Aveo Durack where they were involved in resident-run group activities.

UQ speech pathology lecturer, Dr Sarah Wallace said the fieldwork visits gave students the opportunity to start building the skills needed to work with ageing adults.

“They were required to build rapport, demonstrate active listening skills and identify when and how to modify communication to promote effective communication with older adults,” Dr Wallace said.

“Students really enjoyed the opportunity to build on skills learnt in the classroom and apply them to real interactions with ageing older adults.”

During gentle exercise, art and archery groups, students engaged in conversation with residents, and gained their perspectives on what makes good communication.

As part of their fieldwork students made observations about the aged care environment and reflected on ways communication could be optimised in this setting to promote socialisation amongst residents.

“Our aim was for students to identify opportunities, barriers and facilitators to communication, and to reflect on how the aged care environment can be enhanced to promote communication” Dr Wallace said.

“I accompanied the students to these visits, so throughout the day there was always opportunity for discussion and reflection.  

“Participating in the resident-run groups provided students with some wonderful insights into active ageing.

“It was great to see how much the students enjoyed interacting with the aged care residents and the feedback we received reflected this, as many commented how inspired they were and how the experience broadened their ideas about the settings they could work in upon graduation.”

First year Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours) student, Tania Millican participated in an exercise class and sat down with residents for morning tea and a chat.

“The highlight of my fieldwork at Aveo was definitely sitting down with and getting to know the residents as I loved hearing their life stories and experiences,” Ms Millican said.

“This experience reinforced to me how important it is for healthcare professionals to listen, understand and respect an older adult’s individual needs, beliefs, goals, life experiences, decisions and priorities to ensure better health outcomes for patients.

“I also gained an awareness of the types of barriers and facilitators that can impact effective communication in the aged care environment. 

“Communication, activity participation and social engagement seemed to be an important part of residents’ daily lives.

“It was interesting to observe how social interaction in aged care can be promoted by creating a warm and friendly environment, well-designed sitting areas, and a variety of activities and facilities conducive to communication.

“The experience was inspiring and I look forward to one day being able to provide an effective service to help people of all ages communicate more effectively in the world and reach their goals.”

The placements were facilitated by UQ Health Care who manage the Durack Medical Centre which is part of an 'Enhanced Living Program' suite of services that promote healthy lifestyles for Aveo Durack residents.

Enquiries: Dr Sarah Wallace, or UQ Health Care Communications, Kirsten O’Leary,