“I am leaving with a heavy heart:” Aged care workers planning to quit the sector over mandatory jabs

Aged care worker leaving sector

In June, the government set a September 17 deadline for all residential aged care workers to have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Nearly 80% of the workforce has so far received the jab, however, a small snap poll on HelloCare’s Aged Care Worker Support Group on Facebook showed 9% of aged care workers surveyed plan to leave the sector over the issue of mandatory vaccines.

After speaking to several who said they planned to leave the sector, a common theme emerged – aged care workers have been pushed to their limits and this is the last straw.

One heartbroken aged care worker we spoke to said she left her workplace without saying goodbye to the residents because she was so upset over the matter.

The enrolled nurse from regional Queensland, where there are no COVID-19 cases, said she was already struggling under a heavy workload, due to the fact there are no registered nurses on site at most times and with the added burden of complying with COVID-19 restrictions.

The addition of mandatory vaccines was the straw that broke the camel’s back – she decided to leave. Her last official day will be September 17.

“I couldn’t jump through any more hoops,” she told HelloCare.

Four other staff at the home will also be leaving ahead of the mandatory vaccine deadline.

Susanne acknowledged her leaving will add to the burden on remaining staff. 

“I feel terrible,” she said as the tears flowed.

This evidence of staff leaving the sector comes as the government’s 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census, released today, shows the sector is already facing high rates of staff turnover.

Aged care facilities reported that 29% of their direct care workforce left their employment between November 2019 and November 2020.

Shockingly, among nurse practitioners and registered nurses, 37% left their employment over the period.

Aged care facilities reported 9,404 direct care vacancies at the time of the census, mostly for personal care workers.

Almost half of the facilities reported at least one PCW position vacant. The average number of positions vacant was five.

To address the issue of staff shortages, the government has this week allowed workers in Australia on student visas to work additional hours in aged care.

“This is going to have a huge impact on residents”

Penny* also plans to leave the sector over the issue of mandatory vaccines.

“I am aware that approximately 10-20 staff will be stood down on September 17 or resign,” she told HelloCare.

Many we spoke to denied they are ‘anti-vaxxers’, but said there are elements of the vaccine they don’t agree with.

“I will not be part of an experiment,” one aged care worker told us. This was a common theme.

“No one should be mandated to take an experimental shot where one of the side effects is death,” said another. 

Others suggested the vaccine had not been adequately tested.

There was also confusion about how the vaccine worked. 

“Given the vaccine doesn’t stop you catching or spreading the virus, the residents are no more at risk from the unvaccinated,” one aged care worker told HelloCare. 

Another said she had noticed a “decline” in the residents she cares for, and wondered if it was a result of the vaccine. Lockdowns may also have had a detrimental effect, she suggested. 

“Leaving with a heavy heart”

Many of the aged care workers we spoke to had had long careers in the sector, during which they had endured low pay, hard physical work and a generally disrespecting public. 

Even so, they believed they were making a difference and that they were making the lives of the residents better. They loved the residents and enjoyed their work.

But the mandatory vaccines made them feel disrespected and disenfranchised. The only way for their opposition to be heard was to leave.

“I am leaving with a heavy heart,” one aged care worker shared with HelloCare.

*Names have been changed.

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  1. So proud of the nurses who are standing up for personal rights. I’ve been a health care worker for 33 years and have always respected people’s rights to do with their own body what they feel is right. If we lose this human right we lose something far greater than what we are facing now. The government should be ashamed that they openly declaring this vaccine is safe and effective. The statistics both here and In other countries like the US give more than adequate proof that one of the potential side effects is death. So what right do the government have to ask us to put our life on the line or lose or job? This is unconscionable. Stand strong everyone. Stand strong

  2. Where are you going to get a job as a nurse where you aren’t required to get the jab? We need to examine the real reason for high turnover – pay and conditions – not another jab that is no more dangerous than the rest people have been having for decades.

    1. Agree Peter
      I left the Aged Care Sector over a year ago, because of the conditions and impossible workload.
      I worked in a lovely family run 30 bed ACF for 5 years which eventually closed down.
      Then I worked in around 50 different ACF searching for that dream job, lasting anywhere between 1day and 1 month. I have a collection of uniforms.

      I just could not cope with the workload which can vary in different ACF or even on any given day in the same facility.

      My duities would vary from having no on the floor clinical duties to having the responsiblity of administering up to 52 meds, 12 wounds, BPs, BGls, insulin, managing all clinical incidents, family, Doctor rounds etc etc
      I and other nurses went home 1-3 hrs late every shift.
      I worked casual for 3 years for one ACF organsiation and worked in Community in another job
      I love the residents and they deserve a whole lot more. I had to leave for my own self preservation
      Many of the Nurses from he ACF have left and all because of workload not because of vaccination
      Now working in a Hospital setting, I have had the Covid Vaccination amongst many others

  3. There have always been certain mandatory obligations to be a nurse, including a raft of vaccinations; the COVID-19 vaccination is just one more.

  4. 100% agree. I am about to leave too, ive been in aged care for 12 yrs. I am lucky as i am about to go on maternity leave at the end of oct, and that is the reason why i am not getting the vaccine yet is being pregnant. I have recently suffered to losses and choose not to get the jab while pregnant, i will when i return to work. But have thought long and hard, and wont be returning to aged care for some time as i need to pursure a different nursing career.

  5. That is their choice. But probably an excuse to leave. Hope they realise they will need to have it anyway to access most activities , ie travel.

  6. Just another reason to extinguish Australians in the Aged Care sector. The ones that trained and carried the load for all new staff from here and abroad now expendable! Unless the wages in aged care and the conditions improve astronomically you will not see many Aussies stepping one foot in these places where nobody in the sector is valued or respected. It all comes down to better wages and conditions and I am not talking small wage increases, I am talking major significant increases to show that staff in this sector are needed and not constantly replaced with new staff on this merry-go-round of transient workers. What ever happened to the theory that continuity and consistency of regular staff was so important to our residents particularly with Dementia staff? What a joke this sector is.

  7. The government handling and messaging of the “jab” is one of the worst bungled efforts by any government. A federal plan administered by states shows it is impossible to have any clear path for what is best taking into accounts peoples rights to do with their bodies what they wish to do. We live in a democracy yet watch rights of our own and colleagues be crushed. We are asking the ones who love and care for “our loved ones” be forced into a situation to decide whether they wish to stay in the industry at all. The choice our governments have given them is – Do you want to continue working or not ? Please we encourage you to have the “jab” however we respect your rights to choose what is administered into your body. The last straw for me was seeing notices sent home to students doing Year 12 from the Victorian Education Department. Stating any student who wishes to participate in VCE exams must have the “jab”. It also goes on to then further stipulate as you are over 16 years of age you do not require the consent of your parents! On the other hand if you do not attend school for the day you must have an accompanying note from your parent! Lets think about all of this clearly! This is not about whether the “jab” is beneficial or non beneficial – this is purely around the rights of people in a democratic society being eroded at both Federal and State Level. Nurses, PCA, Cleaners, Cooks, Admin in aged care and our health system overall – you are loved and acknowledged for the tireless at most times unrewarding work you do to protect our loved ones – surely this is one thing we can all agree on!

  8. I appreciate calling something mandatory feels like you have lost control, however there is a safe option that assists in protecting us and not everyone wants this. We over use antibiotics when we are sick because we want to feel like there is something we can do. We take over the counter high dose multivitamins thinking they will support our health. We get a tetanus needle when we cut ourselves in the garden, but we won’t take a vaccine proven to reduce death and hospitalisation because we are worried about what it may do (with more evidence than any herbal supplement will ever have). Shouldn’t those of us who support and care and love our most vulnerable population be wanting to do everything we can to make sure we are well enough to care and they stay alive long enough to share their stories.

  9. I do not understand why there is such a backlash to mandatory vaccinations. I am now retired. I have worked in a Special School, where Flu and Hepatitis vaccinations were required. I also worked at the Children’s Hospital where annual flu vaccinations were required. Airlines and some other workplaces are also requiring COVID vaccinations. Perhaps if some of the recommendations from the Royal Commission were adopted by the Gov’t., these people may feel differently. I do agree they are over worked and underpaid.

  10. Additional to my comments. Visitors have to provide proof of Flu vaccinations to visit Aged Care Facilities.

  11. Well aren’t they a special kind of stupid. I for one will refuse to work with anyone who is unvaccinated. Not only is this for the residents but also the chance of passing it on to my immune suppressed husband. They claim they have rights, so do I. I have a right to work in a safe workplace for both myself, family and friends, the residents and fellow workmates.

  12. Maybe the decision made by these employees could have a silver lining for residents. Acknowledging the emotions and disappointment felt by both residents and staff. The number of residents who have died in “care” that have contracted their Covid 19 infection from unvaccinated carers indicates that this is the time to employ staff who are fully vaccinated. Dependent and disabled residents have a right to be protected fully from Covid 19 and this is not possible when they have personal care provided by unvaccinated staff. As an experienced Director of Nursing in aged care maybe Covid is just what is needed to shake up the quality of care delivered to residents, and also translate residents’ rights from a charter on a bare wall to practice. Staff can vote with their feet to exercise their personal rights most residents can’t and neither they should be forced to leave their homes.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. My Mum died from Covid in an Aged Care Home in August 2020. I am shocked that anyone who worked at her Home or other Aged Care Homes would refuse to get vaccinated. It certainly tells me that they are in the wrong profession.

  13. Very sad that committed aged care workers who care so much about their residents are being forced into this position. The vaccine doesn’t stop you getting COVID and it doesn’t stop you spreading it – so what’s the point of making it mandatory? Ridiculous, and the overstretched, overworked, aged care sector will lose yet more staff and make the whole situation even worse.

    1. The Vaccine reduces the rate of transfer and virulence of the effects which will save lives especially in the aged care sector. Staff who believe unsubstantiated ramblings from biased, opinion based media and the internet rather than fully qualified, industry respected Experts who advise Governments, the W.H.O., The C.D.C. and other reputable and responsible organisations, these staff should leave the industry before they decide against all the other basic health practises such as hand washing, use of disinfectant, sterile wound care etc.

      I believe all nurses, personal and aged care workers deserve better wages and conditions. Perhaps a new breed of nurses and health care workers will emerge from this debacle and demand respect for themselves and their patients, better funding and patient to staff ratio’s.

  14. “No one should be mandated to take an experimental shot where one of the side effects is death,”

    Try seeing it this way: we are again at war against a very old enemy. And like any war, there are those who risk and lose their lives for duty. Millions have died over the eons fighting wars.

    Those who believe they should not have to participate in this war by protecting themselves and their community have a right to refuse Covid vaccination, but they are a minority.

    The consequences should be (and most certainly will be) that the majority will need to protect themselves from this minority – and slowly that is happening. No air travel, employment limitations, restrictions on entry to venues, etc.

    Or perhaps you are hoping the most selfish hope of all: that when 80% are vaccinated, that in itself will protect you. That’s not standing up for personal rights, that’s cowardice.

  15. Im a nurse for 36 bbn years and a Navy Corpsmen 22 years. I will not be made to take the Covid shot it’s my body. I know hoe to take care of it.its a sad story we will loose so many nurses this way.

    1. Billie Estes with respect to personal carers in Australia. They are not nurses. In Australia and the UK the title Nurse is a protected title. Only degree-qualified nurses and Endorsed Nurses can legally claim and hold that title. The reason that I comment on this is that during this pandemic the press has continually referred to personal carers as nurses. These articles have caused some confusion in the community.

  16. To have the vaccination is not a huge ask, many,many industries require vaccinations, you get vaccinations for travelling overseas for God’s sake, we got vaccinated as kids, our parents were vaccinated a generation ago , I work in the industry as well andif the residents can do it so can I!! I will continue to work in the industry and not moan about the jab, but get i t done and move forward

  17. In the position our country has at present with covid it is sad that the staff have not been adequately given information to ease their concerns. No one likes to be told they have to do something, unfortunately the case here is that doing nothing will most likely cause them to be responsible for another persons illness or death. It is of course their right to leave their position if they feel unable to comply. Yes residents are always the ones to be affected by low staff numbers and staff leaving. If the matters that were discussed with the Royal Commission were able to be more quickly implemented, especially a better wage system then things may improve, and perhaps the staff to resident ratio will ensure the care of the residents as well as provide more assistance to the staff on the floor. Many young women worry about the fertility aspect and there should be medical advice available to reassure young women it would not be detrimental to this aspect of their lives. However, if they were to get Covid it may cause death.

  18. I did not want to have the jab the reason being that there is no guarantee what will the long term side effects are. I’m not a antivaxxer, I’m up to date with all other jabs. But because I love my job and the residents that I care for I had the first jab 3 days ago, against my better judgment. I just hope that in 5 or 10 years time I won’t regret my decision.

  19. We’re allowing students on visa’s to work in aged care?
    The Aged Care Royal Commission pointed out one of the problems with unskilled staff and we are allowing them to work with our most vulnerable! I just do not understand it!
    Every week a nurse is leaving aged care at the facility I work in. Nobody seems to care.

  20. I have to agree with all of the previous comments I am not against having a vaccine,but merely against been forced to be jabbed with something into my system that has not been researched long enough also the side effects in the longer term, I feel sure some of the side effects that have already been experience have not been reported properly as the result is the vaccine. As nurses down the track could be nursing some terrific consequences from the so called JAB, am told by my GP blood clots to the brain ,seizures and more. I see the whole aspect of the way people are been treated,there will be more illness come out of the Pandemic, from mental health to you name it, will all increase over the next few years and it will not be put down as a result of the JAB. Fortunately I am in a position to be old enough to leave nursing by the 17th of September, my heart goes out to the Residents and those nurses who have to rely on an income. I also know the facility where I work are struggling and have been for a long time to cover all shifts and are currently working 12 hour shifts, feeling tired and exhausted but still put their hands up just to care for the residents. To do this to nursing staff ,I see these nursing homes are going to be doomed to close due to the shortage of staff. I have been nursing since 1963 and never felt so forced to be pushed into something like this, it is bulling,discrimination and taking away our human rights.

  21. I too was tempted to leave the aged care sector, but decided that my residents are very important to me. I relented and have had both vaccines which I am so regretful about, learning that a prominent boxer Oscar De La Hoya is in hospital with covid after being double vaccinated, I was aware that we can contract this either way but the negatives outway the positives. We are still having to wear visors and masks to do our daily Adl’s despite the fact that we are at this stage, supposed to be safer??.. This is the biggest farce in our medical history, and we all are going to have to take part in this “NEW WORLD ORDER” Makes me sick to the pit of my stomach, the job I’m so dedicated to I’m probably going to have to leave as well because I’m definitely not having the 3rd, the 4th etc vaccine.

  22. What you don’t realise is that you were expendable prior to Covid 19, did you take your Flu vax? If so what difference does this make? You are protecting yourself by not ending up in ICU gasping for your last breath. And it is a horrible feeling, I have not had Covid 19 and would not want to end up with it, but I have another illness that had me gasping for breath to the point I almost died. I would not wish this on anyone. if it is avoidable why haggle with it? I am sad you are all leaving your work, the compassion you give, the patience you have, for little money and little recognition from families, public and governments and the workplace you so donate your time and energies into. It is a sad day for all.

  23. I am terrified of the experimental jab. We nurses have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic caring for others. I started nursing in 1985, exposed to multiple illnesses. HIV AIDS, Hepatitis, SARS, MERS, Swine flu TB, covid etc….without contracting anything or spreading anything. It seems to me that the amount of adverse reactions and deaths reported in VAERS, Yellow card and the European statistics are ignored and swept under the carpet. Even fellow nurses say it is ok for a few thousand healthy people to die to save more in the long run. Why does my life not matter? I don’t want to die or be injured for the remainder of my life. I feel like there is a gun to my head. I never thought I would lose my human right to decide which medical treatment is best for me in order to keep my career.

  24. I’m a career as well, and I’m leaving without saying good bye to the residents, I feel very sad, we were struggling already at my work, and now with a few girls leaving will make it worse, I feel so sad for the residents… I will miss them all 🙁

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