When federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, announced a new set of financial rewards for registered nurses in aged care earlier this month, the personal care assistants (PCA) who make up the bulk of the aged care workforce were noticeably angered.
In amongst the chorus of frustrated PCA’s was a 30-year veteran of the aged care industry named Wendy, who reached out to HelloCare to personally voice some of the frustrations that she shares with her fellow carers.
“I know that [registered nurses] have a degree, I get that they are skilled and that they do the wounds, the medication and the palliative residents, but carers do a lot more of the work,” said Wendy.
As part of the Government’s new initiative to attract and retain nurses in the aged care sector, RNs who work full-time at the same aged care facility for 12 months will be eligible to receive bonus payments of $3,700 in both 2022 and 2023.
Part-time and casual registered nurses will be eligible to receive payments on a pro-rata basis, averaging $2,700 each year, while aged care nurses who choose to work in rural areas, hold a postgraduate qualification, or take on additional training or leadership responsibilities, may be eligible to receive an extra $2,300.
Currently, the average annual pay for a nurse working in the Australian aged care sector is $77,386, while a PCA’s average is $54,722.
While Wendy was quick to acknowledge that nurses deserve to be rewarded for the responsibility and complexity of their work, she feels that carers are highly undervalued for the role that they play in aged care and the workloads that they deal with.
“I worked at a larger facility for 27 years, but now I work at a smaller home with 32 residents, and carers are basically responsible for everything,” shared Wendy.
“We don’t have time to sit and chat with a resident like we should be able to, we don’t have time for anything. It’s ‘get ’em done – and get ’em out.”
She continued, “There are a lot of carers who are leaving because of this. We’ve lost three people in the last six months and two other [carers] have had enough and they want to go as well. And now the RN’s are getting more money? How about doing some more of the work?”
Despite the growing workloads, Wendy believes that many new carers come into the industry underprepared due to shortened training and qualification requirements.
“Our course, we did it for 12 months, but now we have new carers who have only done six weeks of training. Some of them don’t even have manual handling,” said Wendy.
Like most who work in aged care, Wendy believes that a love for the residents is the main attraction, but a lack of recognition in society and financially is having a dire effect on the industry’s ability to attract more people.
Wendy believes that this same lack of recognition has also become a point of resentment between some nurses and carers, with recent news of financial rewards being a tipping point for frustrations.
“We don’t do it for the money, because you just don’t get enough as a carer. We’re on the lowest pay there is,” said Wendy.
“We do the majority of the work, and it feels like you get nothing in return. And [carers] have just had enough.”