Aug 31, 2017

Attracting Younger Staff to Aged Care

Aged care is a growing industry. Australia’s ageing population means there is a greater need for more aged care facilities.

In 2015-16 alone, there were 949 residential care providers who operated 195,825 places. And that number is expected to grow.

With more and more facilities opening, this also a demand for more staff, in particular nurses.  

Yet why is it that aged care is often the last choice for newly graduated nurses?

The preference has generally been for working in hospital, or working in clinics or outpatient facilities.

Much like the increasing population of ageing residents, the aged care workforce is also ageing.

People working in aged care tend to work in the sector for a long time, making the workforce relatively stable. Approximately 25 per cent of aged care staff having been working in aged care for over 14 years.

But eventually those aged care nurses will retire and inevitably need new staff to replace them.

Jackie Brooker, a Clinical Nurse Consultant from the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, spoke at the Dementia Care Deliver Summit about the need to attract younger staff to the sector.

“It has to be a pathway, we have to make it so that aged care is not the dead end of nursing. Aged care is not where you go when you can’t get a job in hospital,” said Brooker.

“Aged care is the future of nursing. There’s going to be more jobs in aged care than ever before in the next 5-10 years”.

Brooker proposed there were a number of things that the aged care sector can to do to be appealing to potential new staff.

“Professional development and opportunities – there is also loads of education out there for professional development. We need to be able to provide time for staff to do that.”

“Staffing needs to be adequate. Pay needs to be better – pay in aged care is pathetic”

“We need to consider the change management in relation to attitude.The attitude of acute towards aged care which means upskilling the staff.”

“Educations – upskill our staff. Not treat them like the lesser nurses of society, as they have been for many many years”

“Aged care is vital, this is the most vulnerable community we have ever. We need more staff to look after them. That means we need RNs 24/7, more CNSs and support staff, and more CNEs to educate staff”.

There needs to be a focus on training and developing the ‘next generation’ of the aged care workforce, as well as creating a more positive perception of how working in aged care benefits and gives back to society.

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  1. The general reluctance to work in aged care seems to be a fear of losing skills such as setting up and running IV lines. I am an aged care nurse and am glad I don’t have to worry about IVs (but am still required to operate syringe drivers, peg feeds, vac pumps, etc). Graduate nurses are attracted to areas such as emergency, intensive care, paediatrics and oncology. I’m not sure what can be done to make aged care more attractive. It is well known that aged care nurses are paid less than their hospital counterparts so maybe financial incentives could be the key to attracting more nurses.

    1. It takes 5 minutes to learn how to use an IV…. You do not lose skills. Just like in different specialties, you learn specialised skills… I work in aged care and we learn so much about full assessments, communication, interpersonal relationships, heaps of technical skills. I only get paid $1 or $2 less than hospital but I LOVE it! It’s not always about the almighty dollar. Plus I love working with the same faces each day and putting a smile on their face at the end of their lives. What an honour!

  2. Unless there are nurse to patient ratios of RN’s’, EN’s and PCA’s, and the facility is willing/forced to spend that money on staffing who would want to work short staffed and at high stress all of the time? I loved my work in aged care, I loved seeing the same faces daily and actually getting to know the residents and their family members. However, I did not like the fudging of the ACFI and I could not work in a facility where the food was poor quality. More of the RN’s time goes into paper work, ACFI assessments and checking Webster packs against drug charts rather than spending time with the resident – particularly in regard to physical checks of skin integrity, weight and fluid balance.

  3. Thankyou for your service Vanessa, Susie and Marian. The last 2 years since my mother entered residential care have been a huge eye opener. I think the older and more experienced nurses and carers have a lot more to offer in aged care because they know they are not immortal and generally have a bit more empathy (except after another short staffed shift where common sense was once again lacking)

  4. Pingback: Attracting Younger Staff To Aged Care | Nurse Uncut
  5. I feel that the conversation seems largely focused on nurses and clinical staff without considering the corresponding deficit in care staff. Of course nursing staff are vitally important in aged care, but there are a whole host of other tasks being undertaken by skilled and qualified care staff that tend to get overlooked in debates such as this, and it’s more than likely that the numbers of care staff will increase as time goes on.

    These care staff are afflicted by all of the same problems that nurses experience, but often to a greater degree – namely, terrible understaffing and absolutely laughable rates of pay. As far as attracting younger workers, most would get paid more at Woolworths to perform far less physically and emotionally taxing work – so why would you bother? These workers have immense reserves of kindness and empathy, but you can’t pay the bills with that. They are the people who allow nurses to do their job and yet it’s them that often take the fall if anything goes wrong. They have qualifications and are skilled in their jobs but are taken for granted.

    Please don’t get me wrong – none of this is intended as a jab at nurses, who do a fantastic job. I do feel however that much of the (absolutely necessary and long overdue) public discussion of aged care is missing half the story. Ratios and proper funding are very important, but if we only force the government and employers to take care of the nursing side of things, we will be making it even harder on care staff.

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