Oct 14, 2021

Where’s our pay rise? Veteran PCA speaks out about feeling undervalued in aged care

Where’s our pay rise? Veteran PCA speaks out about feeling undervalued in aged care
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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.

Wendy added, “We do all of this while buzzers are going off. The nurses just sit there with these buzzers going off around them slowly doing paperwork.

Under pressure

Although the federal government’s response to the Royal Commission promises to improve the amount of care time afforded to aged care residents in the future, many aged care staff feel that they are currently more understaffed than ever before.

According to Wendy, these excessive workloads have left many carers feeling expendable and unvalued, which is also prompting some to leave the industry for good.

“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.”

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  1. I agree with all of what Wendy has said l have had nurses say to me they don’t have time to help to much paper work then go sit in the office chatting PCA have paper work also and had to be finished before ems of shift while answering buzzers and no over time paid that’s why l no longer work in an industry l love and yes l was trained have a cert 3and 4 in aged care and disability and dementia with on going training was also well trained on med rounds as well as werel worked pcas were trained for med rounds and we were dam good at it

  2. 20 yrs for me and Wendy you have hit the nail on the head here. I am a career and totally agree with all you have said. I am only just holding on myself I feel next year I to will leave the industry as so much has changed and its not for the good of the residents 😔

  3. I totally agree with this lady, I work in aged care for over 40 years, and I see this every day, our pca’s, do medication with no certificate, they do the bulk of the work not the registered nurses, it’s a disgrace.

  4. Essentially I agree with Wendy and everyone that has commented so far, we only part ways on the ‘we do the bulk of the work’, I’m an RN, I have been a caregiver and an EN, I have been in this industry over 30 years, I have been an RN when we carried a full patient load doing all personal cares as well as clinical. RN’s are working just as hard now as we ever were then, it’s just that the focus has switched and it is less physical, but in a lot of ways the RN’s bear a harder load than they used to. And sorry, caregivers that can give medications are not a substitute.
    An RN can do an EN and caregivers job, the reverse is not true no matter how many years experience.
    That all being said the Government is blind deaf and dumb if it thinks that the biggest crisis is retaining RN’s, and absof***inglutely should caregivers receive a loyalty bonus. You are all wonderful skilled ESSENTIAL workers without whom, we RN’s cannot do our job. Unfortunately there are way more of you than us and I think that played a large part in how this has gone down. There is also the fact that RN’s are leaving aged care in droves because public hospitals are recruiting constantly, we lost 10 RN’s off our roster 2 months ago in the latest drive, one replaced so far, we are coping because of the dedication and hard work of the RN’s that have stayed (and a 10% pay rise). Whist we can cope sometimes working short on the floor when talking caregivers. No RN’s on the floor can literally close a facility down. I wish the government wasn’t so mentally challenged in this area, but confess that I hope this works to help us keep the RN’s that have stayed.

  5. I have worked in aged care now for 10 years I started as a career but now I am a PTA . I agree with everything that Wendy has said because the same thing is going on where I work, It appears that the nurses are doing more on the administration side of things, so this means careers and therapy staff are doing more and more of their work, at my facility careers and therapy staff do most of the medications (tablets puffers eye drops the list goes on) We have lost several seniors careers due to being over worked for poor pay. Careers are differently under payed for what they have to do, also even therapy staff work load has increased and are under payed as well our pay rate is not much different to a career.

  6. I agree the PCA is over worked and undervalued. Yes nothing has changed since the Royal Commission in fact it’s worse. Under staffing leads to a catch phrase”face pits and fannies” this can go on for up to a week. I agree the residents won’t die if they don’t have a shower but they will if there not hydrated. Carer,s are so task orientated they fixate on getting the job done and with understaffing morning teas and afternoon teas are left. As an EEN I feel like “Piggy in the middle” I am made responsible for the direction of the PCA but get my but kicked by the CCC if the job is not done, on top of doing medication rounds X3 in mornings, care eveluations, ACFI, wounds, managing residents behaviours which are becoming more out of control where age care feels more like phsyc nursing. In 7. 25 hrs I feel I am burning out.

  7. I work home nursing l use my own car. My ph. And internet$65 month . I get petrol money after second client that could be 100 klms away. We have to have first aid yearly $125.00 , right to work $70 yearly , blue card / yellow card $70 , insurance for transporting client in my car $500 and car insurance extra , all our needles. , car has to be cleaned weekly $20 , machanicaly sound , tires , RACQ $90 plus plus. And our wages are terrible. We are on a app that we log in and out we have to be on time and we don’t get lunch breaks nearly all the time no lunch or toilet breaks we work long hours we leave home when the sun comes up and many of time arrive home 18.00 at night for very little pay as a good chunk goes out to petrol. And we get asked why do we do it because we love are work and clients. But we also need better wages and conditions

  8. It is very evident that this PCA have very little insight into what a RN actually do and the enormous responsibility of their role. There can be no comparison between the two roles. PCA’s are greatly valued for their role in assisting residents to live the life they choose, like all who work in aged care but this incentive is about keeping the RN’s who are fewer and difficult to attract to Aged Care due to the exceptionally high workload and responsibilities which, as I already mentioned, is vastly different from that of the PCA.

  9. Looks like there are too many of us AIN/PCs that nobody wants to pay more to.Looks like it will take 2 yrs for my company to be scrutinised over underpayments for staff. God. There will be nobody left by the time they give us what they owe us as so many are leaving here. Maybe the government or Private Aged Care will see how bloody valuable the staff really are then! But as long as they can get visa holders who come and go they won’t give a crap! Just women’s work!!! Might go and work for Woolworths!

  10. Well written. I’ve worked in age care for 40 years and absolutely nothing has changed I knew it wouldn’t after the royal commission even, it’s the same old story no money and short staff and it will never change , we are getting more put on us as carers and we are never valued we never have been and never will be , I only have next year left and I’m retiring and I cannot wait I’ve truely had enough , we are getting so much more work put on us and no time for us to even sit and chat to the residents it’s so sad it’s all about time management we never have and never will be appreciated or valued I’ve been around too long to know things will never change in age care I just feel for the residents

  11. I agree wholeheartedly with this post, it is not fair that carers /PCA’s do ALL the work and it’s so true that many of the RN’s an EN’s do sit and do their paperwork whilst we’re running around showering, answering buzzers, etc. I work with one really great EN, who answers buzzers, who helps with everything and she is the first and only that has ever done so.

  12. Me, 12 years and I quit last week. I agree with all the comments you each have made.
    “They” know we won’t let our residents down because to us, each one is a human being. We become attached because we are human. The business managers running facilities are focussed on growing the business. Residents are commodities. Carers have no voice. They want to squeeze every ounce of our being to meet the Aged Care Standards (to be accredited) and pay us little as possible for it.
    The billions of tax payers money being provided to residential facilities without having to be accounted for is just wrong!
    I have been writing to my local member, as well as radio hosts without response so far…
    Aged Care has to change now!

  13. I feel for carers like Wendy, I am an RN and a manager. The Royal Commission has done nothing to improve the day to day care or running of a facility, in fact it is now worse. Yes the nurses are doing paperwork while buzzers are going off because the workload has increased drastically since the Royal Commission. There are not enough hours in a day to complete what we have to do. The carers have paperwork that needs to be done and frequently they do not have time to complete it. Not their fault.
    Yes the nurses get paid more however, not enough to keep them in the Aged Care Industry for long and the nurses in the acute care system get paid more and eventually we lose good nurses.
    Go figure, we all pay the same amount to register as a nurse, yet the acute care get more incentives, more education opportunities and more money. We have three to four times the responsibility and way less time to complete our duties, and to top it off, we are way more regulated.
    We lose staff because of the heavy workload, the onerous responsibility for all residents combined with worrying about COVID, Quality Commission, filling shifts on a day to day basis as carers and nurses are over worked, underpaid, under appreciated and simply fatigued of it all.
    Yes we love the residents, it takes special people to work in Aged Care, the dedication we see is extraordinary.
    I say hats off to the carers, the cleaners, the staff that work in the laundry and the kitchens, the hospitality staff and the chefs/cooks, the maintenance officers, admin and all the wonderful volunteers that help keep each and every facility going.
    Yes the carers need a pay rise, I agree, the ones I work with are amazing, and really love the residents and it shows, the care they give is outstanding but give the nurses some credit, they can go work elsewhere and probably make more money to boot.
    It’s a very tough industry to work in, tougher than ever before. The Royal Commission has done us no favours, career changes are going to be more attractive now more than ever, and the residents are the ones that will be affected in the long run. I for one am just so plum tired I could cry.

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