Aged care survey shows nurses aren’t nursing

Every four years the Australian Government funds the National Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey, which provides the latest figures on the aged care workforce. The most recent survey was in 2016 and the final report has just been published.

The results of the survey show that workers want more time to care for nursing home residents. Aged care work can be very rewarding, but only when workers have enough time to do a good job.

Workers were unhappy with their pay, which many don’t think reflects the importance of their work in caring for older Australians. Workers are concerned that society does not appreciate the value of aged care and that many people view it as a ‘bad’ job. These issues will have to be addressed sooner rather than later in order to encourage more people to choose a career in aged care.

While there has been a steady increase in the number of people working in aged care, most of this growth has not been in caring roles, but rather in support, administrative and managerial roles. This raises some serious concerns about the amount of care being provided to frail and sick older people.

Adding to this is the fact that the majority of Registered Nurses are spending less than one third of their time caring for residents, as more and more are taken off the floor to work in managerial and administrative roles. This is a big concern given that residents are entering care with more complex needs than ever before.

The results of the survey revealed a worrying decrease in the number of allied health staff working in aged care. Allied health workers are health professionals who aren’t doctors or nurses. Allied health workers involved in aged care include occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians, speech pathologists and counsellors.

In 2003, allied health workers made up 7.4% of the aged care workforce, down to just 4.6% in 2016.

The results of the latest aged care workforce survey paint a worrying picture, with many workers expressing their concern about the quality of care nursing home residents are receiving as a result of changing staffing practices.

But there is hope, as community support for mandatory minimum staffing ratios in nursing homes gathers momentum. The groundswell is growing as more and more cases of shocking nursing home care come to light through the mainstream media.

One of the latest cases to emerge is that of Bill, who has dementia and who was allegedly left on a veranda covered in his own faeces for residents and visitors to see. Months later Bill’s wife Heather noticed blood on his sheets, only to discover he had allegedly been wearing the same soaked pad for 12 hours, which had caused the skin on his scrotum to tear and bleed.

Heather has started an online petition calling for the introduction of minimum staffing ratios in nursing homes. The petition already has over 35,000 supporters and will be handed to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, which is currently finalising the inquiry into the Future of Australia’s Aged Care Workforce. You can add your voice to the choir by signing the Change.Org online petition and by contacting your local member of the Australian parliament and asking them to support mandatory minimum staff to resident ratios in residential aged care.