Across the globe, patients are suffering the consequences of healthcare systems that are failing to address their fundamental needs. As a result, patients experience increased injuries, infections, readmissions, and dehumanising care. The nursing workforce bears the brunt of this neglect, with high rates of burnout, stress, and low job satisfaction.
Caring Futures Institute’s Dr Rebecca Feo, along with Professor Tiffany Conroy and Professor Alison Kitson, in partnership with the International Learning Collaborative (ILC), has collaboratively designed and developed the Fundamentals of Care Leadership Program for nursing and healthcare leaders to address the issue.
“Fundamental care needs directly impact physical and psychosocial wellbeing, regardless of clinical condition, age, or care setting,” said Dr Feo. “We need a common language and understanding for fundamental care across different care contexts so we can work towards improving patient care for all.”
The Leadership Program is comprehensive, including a three-day intensive face-to-face workshop, access to the Fundamentals of Care Framework, a year-long mentorship program facilitated by fundamental care experts from Flinders and across the world, and a world-first evidence-based toolkit.
The foundation of this initiative is built upon prior research projects.
“Past research studies, partially funded by a $30,000 grant from the Nurses Memorial Foundation, have highlighted the need for a more systematic approach to fundamental care leadership,” explains Dr Feo. “Nurses should be provided resources and strategies to build their knowledge, confidence, and skills in articulating, prioritising, and facilitating fundamental care delivery.”
Two key tools developed for the program are the Fundamentals of Care Self-Assessment Tool and the Fundamentals of Care Leadership Reflection Tool. These tools provide real-time assessment and feedback, enabling participants to evaluate and enhance their fundamental care delivery and leadership skills.
The uniqueness of this project lies in its approach to fundamental care.
“This project is shifting the paradigm in how we think about fundamental care,” said Dr Feo. “Fundamental care is about fostering trust between healthcare providers and patients; integrating physical, psychosocial, and relational needs; and creating a supportive care context.”
The intended outcome of this project is to provide expert-informed, user-friendly tools that assist healthcare professionals in measuring fundamental care, globally. The tools are suitable to anyone working within healthcare systems and who are aiming to enhance patients’ fundamental care experiences and outcomes.
Early feedback from ILC Leadership Program participants who have used the Fundamentals of Care Self-Assessment Tool has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The tool has met a pressing need to measure and demonstrate the importance of fundamental care within healthcare systems,” Dr Feo emphasised.
The project aligns perfectly with the aims of the Flinders University Caring Futures Institute, focusing on fundamental care and its relevance and impact for everyone across the life course and regardless of clinical condition, disability, or care setting.
The long-term impact of this research will be substantial.
“These tools will work across various care contexts, helping to elevate care and leadership at multiple levels, from individuals to entire healthcare organisations,” Dr Feo said.
The collaborative effort to address fundamental care neglect in healthcare will not only enhance patient experiences and outcomes but also improve the wellbeing of the nursing workforce. By developing tools that align with evolving models of healthcare, this project has the potential to transform the way we view and deliver fundamental care.
The tools will be available to the public on the Caring Futures Institute website in early 2024.