A leading nurse educator has told the Fair Work Commission that low pay and an absence of defined career pathways make it hard to attract undergraduate student nurses to work in aged care.
Maree Bernoth, Associate Professor at Charles Sturt University School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences, said she regularly speaks to young student nurses and “it is difficult to convince them that a career in aged care is worth thinking about and pursuing.
“Unlike in the acute sector, the career options for an RN in aged care are limited. As a result, RNs in aged care must be remunerated better to attract and retain them in the aged care industry,” said Professor Bernoth in a statement to the commission.
Professor Bernoth, who is an RN and NSWNMA member, said aged care staff are paid too little for their required skills and knowledge and level of responsibility.
“The aged care sector needs to attract and retain many new staff over the next 10 years. We already have a deficit of staff in rural and remote areas.
“We must start paying people properly to work in aged care in order to retain and attract staff.
“If staffing in aged care facilities cannot be increased with the increasing demand, older people will have to stay in their homes, shifting the burden of care onto families to care for them.”
Since the introduction of the Aged Care Act 1997, the emphasis in aged care has gradually shifted to community-based care and keeping people in their homes for longer.
As a result, people being admitted to facilities are generally older and frailer, with multiple needs and “complex nursing issues”.
“Assessing those needs and determining a priority of care requires a lot of assessment and decision-making from the RNs and the care workers,” she said.
“PCAs or AiNs do not necessarily have all the all skills to do this but are being asked to perform this work with little support to help them.”