The average Joe helping TAFE students with practical skills

Meet Joseph Banks Clark. He is 92-years-old, a former medic in the army and a qualified butcher.

He has a granddaughter who is a registered nurse so he knows a lot about what happens in the hospitals and loves to tell a joke.

Joe is also not real. Joe is actually TAFE NSW Community Services teacher, Renee Wallace.

It's part of a real-life aged care simulation offered at TAFE NSW Wetherill Park to help students apply practical skills.

Mrs Wallace dons silicone props including a face mask and becomes the persona of an elderly aged care resident so students can use their theory in a practical and safe environment.

TAFE NSW Community Services teacher, Renee Wallace.

TAFE NSW Community Services teacher, Renee Wallace.

"Key to the simulation is that each mask has a persona attached to it with a history and prior medical illnesses that students need to work with to determine the best form of care for their aged care resident," said Mrs Wallace, who takes about five-minutes to transform from teacher to elderly resident and can last about 20-minutes under the mask due tot he heat.

"We're noticing that students are not only learning the physical, hands-on skills needed to work with the elderly, but they are also developing soft skills like empathy and building relationships with their aged care resident, which has had positive impacts on their performance in the course."

Mrs Wallace said the innovative masked simulation - adopted from CQ University research - gives students a chance to have real interaction with a resident who can move, speak and interact, rather than working on a mannequin or with another student.

Joe, who is named after Renee's late grandfather, is a fan-favourite at the campus and is factored into the curriculum regularly.

"Joe is nice person who makes people feel comfortable. If a student helps him up off the chair by pulling him by the arm, he will let them know about his bad shoulder," Mrs Wallace said.

"They see Joe as a real person, even though they know its me under the mask. They don't relate to Joe as me, they relate to Joe as Joe.

"It helps them with their practical skills but also embeds that empathy, respect and dignity that seems to be missing in a lot of aged care training.

"It's not enough for students to study a course and pass a test, which is why we embed hands-on, practical training based on real-life scenarios that students would come across in the workplace."

Joe be found in the new clinical simulation room at TAFE NSW Wetherill Park, which has been purpose built to replicate an aged care facility and home care environment.

Students from courses including Certificate III in Individual Support (Aging and Community), Certificate IV in Aging Support as well as Nursing and Health have access to the masked simulation learning experience in an attempt to produce more qualified workers to address the skills gaps identified in the Aged Care Royal Commission. Hygiene and infection control is also covered in the course.

  • To enrol in an aged care course at TAFE NSW, contact call 131 601.