An Interview with Te Pou Chief Executive Robyn Shearer



Robyn, what are some of the ways Te Pou is improving wellbeing for Older People in NZ and by your workforce development in pacific health and disability services?


Robyn Shearer: Te Pou o Te Whakaaro Nui, incorporating Matua Raki, is the national centre for evidence based workforce development in the mental health, addiction and disability sectors in New Zealand. We work with a range of organisations and people including service providers (district health boards and non-government organisations), training and education providers, researchers and international experts. Our customers include the Ministry of Health, and health and disability services across New Zealand.

One of our most recent projects is the Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) pilot for older people with a clinical diagnosis of mild to moderate dementia. The pilot evaluation found that CST is an acceptable psychological therapy that can be delivered relatively easily in both community and residential care settings. The CST trained practitioners delivered 14 one hour group sessions on topics aimed to actively stimulate and engage people within an optimum learning and social environment. Results indicated a positive effect on mood, memory and quality of life; and families reported their loved ones had new-found confidence, capabilities and vastly improved communication skills. The pilot’s success led to the delivery of a 28 week CST maintenance programme by Alzheimer’s Auckland and a Radius Care residential facility and further programmes are likely.

Delivery of psychological therapies to older adults requires special consideration. To help our workforce support older adults we developed a talking therapies practice guide for older adults who use mental health and addiction services practice guide for older adults who use mental health and addiction services. This guide was developed with the Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and responded to the call from service users, families and clinicians for greater access to evidence based talking therapies (sometimes called psychological therapies). The guide allows people to have a deeper understanding of the issues they are dealing with and practical help to improve their skills and knowledge. Key messages include the need for:

·        –  effective therapist and service user relationships

·         – cultural competency skills for staff

·         – action to address ageism in services and society

·         – further research about addictions in older adults.

The talking therapies resource aligns well with the 2014 Report on the Positive Aging Strategy (Ministry of Social Development, 2001) helping older people to live rich, fulfilling lives and to contribute positively to their families and communities.

“An Introduction to Working with Older People in the Addiction Sector” was developed by Matua Raki, the addiction workforce development team within Te Pou, in response to a growing need in the community to support those working in the sector.  Workshops were delivered to 296 participants from a broad cross-section of the addiction workforce. Matua Raki have since developed and delivered four “Advanced” workshops in the four main centres.

The ‘Let’s get real’ programme provides resources to help people working in all services to develop the values, attitudes, skills, and knowledge to show respect and kindness to people experiencing mental illness and addiction. The enablers for the older person’s framework include learning modules that focus on the essential skills and knowledge required, such as the M?ori learning module, which may be useful for the overseas trained workforce. Te Pou has been in discussions with Carers New Zealand and Complex Carers around the development of a carer’s package for the ‘Let’s get real: disability’ framework.

Te Pou’s 2011 survey of mental health and addiction services for older people (MHSOP) is an example of our passion for workforce planning and development. Using the World Health Organization (WHO) definition, this was about ensuring an organisation has the right number of people, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time, with the right attitude, doing the right work, at the right cost, with the right work output (WHO, 2010). This report found nearly half of the district health board MHSOP workforce were nurses and eight per cent were psychiatrists, and 28 per cent the other clinical workforce. A high proportion (18 per cent) were overseas trained staff, who identified cultural training as a specific need. Needs generally identified included training in dementia and delirium; death, dying, loss and grief; and psychopharmacology. The MHSOP workforce was relatively stable and experienced, however strategies aimed at improving recruitment will be required as nearly half the workforce will reach retirement age within the next 5 to 15 years. The survey information will be used to inform future workforce planning, and to better understand workforce development and training needs.

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