Aged care is a growing industry. Australia’s ageing population means there is a greater need for more aged care facilities.

In 2015-16 alone, there were 949 residential care providers who operated 195,825 places. And that number is expected to grow.

With more and more facilities opening, this also a demand for more staff, in particular nurses.  

Yet why is it that aged care is often the last choice for newly graduated nurses?

The preference has generally been for working in hospital, or working in clinics or outpatient facilities.

Much like the increasing population of ageing residents, the aged care workforce is also ageing.

People working in aged care tend to work in the sector for a long time, making the workforce relatively stable. Approximately 25 per cent of aged care staff having been working in aged care for over 14 years.

But eventually those aged care nurses will retire and inevitably need new staff to replace them.

Jackie Brooker, a Clinical Nurse Consultant from the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, spoke at the Dementia Care Deliver Summit about the need to attract younger staff to the sector.

“It has to be a pathway, we have to make it so that aged care is not the dead end of nursing. Aged care is not where you go when you can’t get a job in hospital,” said Brooker.

“Aged care is the future of nursing. There’s going to be more jobs in aged care than ever before in the next 5-10 years”.

Brooker proposed there were a number of things that the aged care sector can to do to be appealing to potential new staff.

“Professional development and opportunities – there is also loads of education out there for professional development. We need to be able to provide time for staff to do that.”

“Staffing needs to be adequate. Pay needs to be better – pay in aged care is pathetic”

“We need to consider the change management in relation to attitude.The attitude of acute towards aged care which means upskilling the staff.”

“Educations – upskill our staff. Not treat them like the lesser nurses of society, as they have been for many many years”

“Aged care is vital, this is the most vulnerable community we have ever. We need more staff to look after them. That means we need RNs 24/7, more CNSs and support staff, and more CNEs to educate staff”.

There needs to be a focus on training and developing the ‘next generation’ of the aged care workforce, as well as creating a more positive perception of how working in aged care benefits and gives back to society.

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