Australia’s health system has long been viewed as one of the best in the world, a reputation that is currently being cemented as it continues to adapt to the challenges of an ongoing pandemic.

One of the key reasons for Australia having lower fatality and transmission rates than other infected countries stems from having a level of scalability that allows our healthcare providers to remain flexible.

As the Morrison Government looks to upskill 20,000 existing nurses to help meet the increasing demands on ICUs around the country, one question that must be asked is what is the next step for aged care?

Residential aged care providers have done an outstanding job of controlling infection and protecting their residents thus far, but staff becoming unavailable due to illness, or the fear of infection, are placing even more pressure on a workforce that was already understaffed.

The void being created by a lack of available staff is forcing a number of providers to rely on Nursing Agencies to fill in the gaps.

This is proving to be increasingly costly and does not come with any guarantees.

Aged care staff that are currently working claim to be experiencing excessive workloads and shortages in a number of resources.

In addition, many are also being asked to working longer hours and being asked to cover the shifts of their unavailable colleagues.

Unfortunately, feeling overworked is somewhat commonplace for aged care staff, but the COVID-19 pandemic has added another dimension of worry that transcends the boundaries of the workplace.

The threat of bringing an infection home to a loved one has meant that many staff are no longer able to switch off and feel relaxed, with some staff even reporting feeling safer and less stressed at work than in their own homes.

According to some projections, Australian aged care providers can expect a 30% reduction in available staff over the coming three months, creating a nightmare situation that appears destined to end in massive amounts of emotional exhaustion, also known as burnout.

Issues like staff retention and attracting new people to aged care have certainly been magnified by this pandemic, but in reality, these problems have actually plagued the industry for decades.

The next question we need to ask ourselves is whether we allow this crisis to be the one that finally pushes our exhausted aged care workforce past their breaking point? Or will necessity become the motivation for meaningful change?

A Fork In The Road

With a nursing and care management career that has spanned four decades and two continents, Carmie Walker has first-hand experience of the pressures facing staff on the floor, and managers without staff.

“The staffing issues that we are seeing now almost feel like a sneak preview of the predicted workforce crisis that experts say we will be experiencing in 30 years due to our rapidly ageing population,” said Ms Walker.

“The inability to attract new staff to care for vulnerable people is proof that current recruitment and placement models are not working, and this failure is a burden that our exhausted workforce is being asked to bear.”

After decades of delivering care personally, Ms Walker currently finds herself in the role of CEO at Australia’s premier care training and worker placement organisation, Vative Healthcare.

Vative Healthcare specialise in providing training solutions that are unique to a provider’s individual needs, but according to Ms Walker, now is the perfect time to address the aged care industry’s most glaring issue.

“We are in an unprecedented position where we have large amounts of amazing people who are in desperate need of employment, who would have never previously considered taking on a role in aged care or disability.”

“We have a program that has already been trialed and comes with a 90% success rate, which will provide newly unemployed people with meaningful jobs and give care providers quick access to new staff. It’s called the Connection Program.”

The Connection Program streamlines the time that it takes to get suitable candidates out on the floor working, while also simplifying the process of finding available jobs for care workers – without compromising quality.

Newcomers without qualification will undergo one-week of intensive training before beginning work in their regional area and continuing their learning process paired with an experienced colleague.

This on the job learning is supplemented with further online training, allowing new workers to work and train while attaining their Certificate IV Ageing Support and Disabilities across a 12 month period.

The Connection Program also increases opportunities for established carers from aged care, disability, and community care by allowing them to inter-mix and fill staffing shortages in each other’s chosen fields.

Although this initiative is free for new and existing care staff, providers do pay a small fee upfront, but all recruited staff members actually become employees of their provider.

“New and existing staff go through a screening process before beginning their training and those without previous qualification will do the bulk of their learning on the job, where it matters,” said Ms Walker.

“This ongoing pandemic has left a number of families without an income, and we are proud to say that we have already deployed a number of highly intelligent carers into the aged care and disability workforce.”

“We are simply opening the funnel and trying to ensure that people who are willing and capable to provide care have a platform to find those who need it.”

 

-The Connections Program is a national initiative open to people and providers all across Australia. For more information, contact Carmie Walker directly at carmie.walker@vativehealthcare.edu.au 

-For potential staff, the online application form is available at Active Recruitment https://www.activerecruitment.com.au/Candidates/Job-Search

Photo Credit – iStock – chameleonseye

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