It is reasonable to expect those who take on greater responsibilities in their jobs and who earn higher qualifications would receive a heavier pay packet, too.
When the progression means you carry greater responsibility for the health and wellbeing of older people who often have significant health issues, that expectation would be doubly understandable.
But enrolled nurses who gain the extra qualification that allows them to administer medication to aged care residents are often not receiving higher rates of pay than their colleagues who do not hold the same qualification.
Those who are paid extra, are paid as little as an additional one dollar per hour.
‘Medication endorsed’ qualification a source of pride
The ‘medication endorsed’ qualification is a matter of great pride for many aged care staff who understand the higher training required and appreciate the additional responsibility and scope the role places on their shoulders.
In order to administer medication safely in residential aged care, staff must understand the therapeutic action of medicines, the reasons for their use, and their effects and side effects.
EENs should receive higher rates of pay
Leading Age Services Australia CEO, Sean Rooney, told HelloCare, that in residential aged age care, only registered nurses or enrolled nurses with “special qualifications” are entitled to administer medication.
According to the Nursing and Midwifery Board, “Enrolled nurses (ENs) are able to administer medicines if they have completed medication administration education at some stage in their career.”
Enrolled nurses with these additional qualifications should receive higher rates of pay, Mr Rooney said.
“Under our Model EA 2017, there is a higher rate of pay for Enrolled Nurses who have this qualification,” Mr Rooney said.
Providers would like to pay aged care staff higher wages, he said, but they are often constrained by government funding.
“Aged care operators want wage rates that reflect the outstanding commitment and care their staff provide for older Australians. However, providers are constrained by their large reliance on Government subsidies to fund care.”
‘Assisting’ with medication is done under supervision
Mr Rooney said personal care workers only “assist” with the administration of medication, under the supervision of an RN or EEN.
However, according to the Department of Health’s ‘Guiding principles for medication management in residential aged care facilities’, care workers can administer medication in some states if they hold the correct qualifications.
But these care workers who can administer medication are “not bound by standards set by a licensing authority”, the Guiding Principles state.
Speak to your employer if you are concerned
Any employee who is concerned about qualifications and pay should feel free to raise their concerns with their employer, Mr Rooney said.
An employee is protected from adverse actions by exercising their workplace right to lodge an inquiry regarding their job.