With people living longer and an increasing ageing population, it’s no surprise that aged care is one of the fastest growing industries in Australia.

That means there are more jobs for carers, nurses, janitors, kitchen staff, upper management and more.

The recent Productivity Commission report on aged care services found that the number of aged care staff has increased over the last five years.

However, surprisingly, the number of registered nurses that work in aged care has remained the same.

With more older Australians needing care, and no increase in registered nurses, this leaves the aged care industry with a severe skill shortage and a question over the quality of care offered.

Because aged care requirements have becoming increasingly complex, there is a greater demand for registered nurses in the industry.

A new study, from the University of Wollongong and Nursing in Aged Care Collaborative, has been developed a competency framework to better understand the skills and knowledge registered nurses will need in the future.

Associate professor Victoria Traynor, from the University of Wollongong’s school of nursing, explains that this new framework will not only ensure a higher quality of care, but that it will also “give the public reassurance that the aged care industry is going to deliver”.

What this new framework is based on is the experiences of current senior registered nurses, with a focus on issues providers are dealing with such as recruitment, retainment and education of staff, as well as the implementation of specialist services.

“The participants thought it should have two levels of practice: an essential level of practice for most registered nurses working in aged care; and an enhanced level of practice for those who are an expert in the specialism,” said Professor Traynor

The framework has a 95 per cent agreement from participants can be used in a variety of areas – recruitment, training, university courses.

The study will be available on the Aged and Dementia Health Education and Research website later this year.

In 2016, ANMF released the National Aged Care Staffing and Skills Mix Project Report which also showed that there was an alarmingly low number of registered nurses.

Lee Thomas, Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, says that it’s not uncommon to have only the one Registered Nurse (RN) caring for over 130 people.

“Our ANMF analysis shows that residents should be receiving an average 4 hours and 18 minutes of care per day – compared to the current 2.84 hours which is currently being provided”.

In terms of skills mix, the project report recommends a staff force should have a mix of 30% Registered Nurses, 20% Enrolled Nurses and 50% Personal Care Workers as a minimum to ensure safe residential care.

However, these ratios are not met. With such low ratios, it will inevitably impact the quality of care that residents can receive.

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