Entering an aged care facility on student placement can be daunting. 

The sights, sounds, and smells of a real-life facility will add a new dimension to the role that you can’t prepare for via textbooks – the people are real, and so is the responsibility.

Things that may appear minor or insignificant to the average person can have a major effect on the wellbeing of an elderly resident, and that’s what makes the teachings and advice from established co-workers vital to the growth of new staff.

The wisdom that has been acquired throughout years of lived-experience is priceless, so we at HelloCare decided to gather a wide variety of opinions from veteran aged care workers regarding what advice they would give to someone starting off their career in aged care.

CarePage, CEO, Lauren Todorovic spent many years working as a nurse in both residential and palliative aged care settings, and Lauren was kind enough to share some words of wisdom for young and inexperienced aged care staff. 

“I think that even though you may be younger or less experienced, it’s always important to remember that you are an advocate for the resident,” said Lauren.

“If you see things that indicate that a resident is not being treated in the right way then you need to speak up.   

“Try and find yourself a mentor that has good habits and learn as much as you can from them.

“I was lucky enough to have a mentor who was an amazing nurse, and that really helped me and gave me confidence in my own nursing.”

A number of veteran aged care nurses and carers also weighed in on this topic via social media, sharing advice that encompassed the key things that new aged care workers should, and shouldn’t be doing. 

Attitude & Initiative

The majority of respondents felt that one of the keys to a long and positive experience in the aged care workforce is never being afraid to ask questions and to become a hands-on participant rather than an observer. 

“Don’t stand around with your hands in your pockets.” said one aged care worker. 

“As a mentor, I don’t waste my time if they are not interested.”

While a keen interest and attentive attitude are valued traits for newcomers in all industries, the time restraints faced by aged care staff often mean that learning will come thick and fast while performing tasks. 

New staff needs to play a meaningful part in delivering care very quickly, but one aged care worker warned that people who are new to the workplace need to be mindful of respecting established staff. 

“I have had a couple of students ‘try’ to tell experienced carers/nurses how to do their job. This behaviour is a big no, no.” 

Advice regarding attitude was not limited to staff though, with responders sharing their thoughts on how new staff can ensure that they are dealing with residents in a respectful manner.

Addressing residents by their name and being mindful that you don’t speak to residents like children came was advice that through loud and clear, along with being kind and using time spent with residents as an opportunity to get to know them as people.

Thanking the staff you work with after a shift was also mentioned along with avoiding politics or engaging in negative conversations about colleagues with other staff members. 

Practical Advice 

Having a great attitude and being respectful are traits that that should come naturally for most aged care newcomers, but it’s the small nuggets of information that you don’t learn about that can have the biggest impact on a new workers experience.

There are obviously situations that staff aged care staff encounter which can be accompanied by some significant odours, and there were a number of aged care staff members who shared their experiences for dealing with those issues. 

Vicks nasal inhalers, perfume sticks, and essential oil vapours were options that were bandied around as potential methods of thwarting unpleasant odours, while another staff member advised new staff to always carry gloves to deal with ‘surprises.’

Carrying a bottle of water and remembering to stay hydrated was mentioned, as well as the need for good supportive shoes and stockings if required. 

Another helpful suggestion was that new staff can benefit from carrying a small notebook, as this would allow new staff to write down and look over important information at home. 

It was also suggested that new staff should be mindful of how staff members interact with residents who are living with advanced dementia and ask questions regarding their individual needs. 

Gerontology Consultant and former aged care facility manager, Nicole Smith had some sound advice for new and prospective aged care staff, reminding them to mindful of the part that they play in the lives of residents and their workplace. 

“As an aged care employee, you will be the most important person in residents’ lives, and your team sets the tone and the culture of your workplace – their home,” said Nicole.

“You have the ability to make aged care better in all that you do.”

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