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Training Partnership for The Alfred Hospital

03 Sep 2007

Increased demand for well-trained and quality staff as Patient Services Assistants (PSA) has led Spotless at The Alfred Hospital to develop a partnership with Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) to improve recruitment procedures.

A shortage of good PSAs has resulted in the hospital placing students enrolled in the NMIT Certificate III in Health Support Services on two months work experience at the hospital for three days a week as part of their training program.

Spotless Human Resources Manager, based at The Alfred, who is responsible for recruitment and training of PSAs, Jo Stevens, said the practical placements of NMIT students gave the hospital the opportunity to develop a rapport with the students which in turn helped recruitment on the students' completion of their studies.

'We get to see what the students can do on the job and can assess them as potential employees. It gives us an insight into the standard of training and also some control over the quality of their experience while the students are working at the hospital,' Jo added.

The students are supervised by qualified staff and the work experience gives the students exposure to an incredibly varied work environment, she said.

'There is currently a desperate need for high quality PSAs and our partnership with NMIT means The Alfred and Spotless has input into that training.'

Spotless employs about 100 PSAs and offers work experience to about five NMIT students who work a typical PSA roster across 24 hours.

The NMIT six month certificate course which is nationally accredited, includes 17 study units such as work priorities, complying with infection control, preparing and maintaining beds, transporting clients/patients, ward/unit food preparation, general cleaning tasks, responding to difficult/challenging behaviour and care of clients/patients. The students are assessed on the job by NMIT teaching staff as well.

The PSAs as known as ward supports, assisting the nurses to ensure the patients are comfortable and have what they need.

'They ensure the wards run smoothly and efficiently with all the equipment in stock that's needed and helping patients as required,' Jo said.

While the patients' physical needs are addressed, the PSAs can contribute to the emotional well-being of the patient, Jo added.

'As a major trauma hospital, there are lots of different types of cases and the students get experience in areas such as the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to give them an exposure to the emotional aspects of the job.'

Jo said over 20 students had completed work experience over the past three years and the hospital had employed about five of these students on a full-time basis.

For student Stephen Lam, 50, studying to become a PSA has meant a complete change of life, and new career opportunities.

Originally from Hong Kong, Stephen has been in Australia for 19 years and is a qualified civil structural and geotechnical engineer specialising in rock fall engineering.

He has worked casually as an engineer but with more time on his hands than he needed, he decided to retrain as a PSA at NMIT.

While he's been fortunate in never having been a patient in a hospital, he said he welcomes the opportunity for direct, hands-on experience at The Alfred where he is learning about the practical aspects of the job.

'Serving the patient is Number One priority, and this experience helps me understand what a PSA has to do and the limits of what I can and can't do,' Stephen said.

'In engineering, I could predict and plan what happens, but with patients, I don't know what's going to happen and can only make them as comfortable as possible.

'It's a totally different area for me, but there are lots of employment opportunities in this field and getting training on the job is really good.'


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Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.