Australia’s aged care sector is undergoing significant changes in the aftermath of the royal commission that wrapped up two years ago.
The commission concluded with a resounding call for reform, emphasising the necessity of placing individuals at the heart of aged care. In response, the Albanese government has initiated a series of aged care reforms, which include having a registered nurse present at aged care homes 24/7 and a mandated minimum of 200 care minutes per resident per day.
However, the transition to this new system is not without its challenges. The federal government, along with the task force it established, is still navigating key issues to enhance the effectiveness of the aged care system.
A recent study conducted by researchers including Associate Professor Helen Rawson and Professor Elizabeth Manias from Monash University, focuses on the sentiments and operations of aged care nurses, particularly those in rural settings. The study’s findings, published in the Nursing Inquiry journal, aim to shed light on the experiences and needs of aged care nurses.
The aged care sector, which has been significantly impacted by both the royal commission and the COVID-19 pandemic, faces numerous challenges, particularly in building and maintaining a skilled workforce. The study underscores the importance of creating a workforce with strong cooperation and communication, referred to as “relational care.”
Associate Professor Helen Rawson from Monash University explains, “In residential aged care, it’s not about one person doing the care. It’s really a multidisciplinary team involving nursing, medical and allied health professionals coordinated by a registered nurse.”
But the study found that the effectiveness of these care teams could be hampered by suboptimal teamwork. In certain cases, enrolled nurses expressed concerns about their lack of participation in decision-making processes and coordination of care for residents.
Associate Professor Rawson emphasises the importance of empowering the workforce, “It goes to a broader issue, which is a need to support everyone involved in care to be able to feel they’re able to make meaningful contributions to support care and wellbeing. Really, true teamwork. And “everyone” includes the resident and their family.”
The researchers also found that, despite being dedicated to their work, many nurses expressed dissatisfaction with their perceived level of impact at work. Associate Professor Rawson adds, “The nurses we worked with enjoy and love what they’re doing.
“They were very dedicated to their work in aged care, but in our study, they scored quite low in ‘having impact’ at work because they didn’t feel that they were part of the decision-making process, especially decisions about the residents’ care.”
The aged care sector is not without its difficulties, especially in recruiting and retaining staff, but with a focus on residents’ well-being, researchers emphasise the importance of an empowered and engaged workforce. This approach not only retains existing staff but also attracts new talent to the sector, ultimately enhancing the quality of care and overall well-being of aged care residents.
Source: Monash University