Aged Care

Survey reveals underutilisation of aged care nurses’ skills despite workforce shortages


According to a recent national survey conducted by the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA), more than one third (34%) of nurses working in residential or community aged care settings in Australia are not fully utilising their skills.

The survey, which received a record-breaking response from approximately 4,000 nurses, highlights the challenges faced by the primary health care (PHC) nursing workforce. Among the findings, over half of the nurses expressed a desire to use more of their skills and experience in their roles.

However, more than one third of them reported that their requests were denied by their aged care employers due to a lack of financial benefits. This is despite the Albanese Government’s commitment to ensuring a registered nurse is available 24/7 in every residential aged care facility by July 2023, requiring an additional 14,000 nurses.

The shortage of nurses in the sector is a significant factor contributing to the underutilisation of their skills. With one in seven registered health professionals in Australia being PHC nurses, the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care predicts a shortage of 85,000 nurses by 2025 and 123,000 nurses by 2030, further exacerbating the issue.

The consequences of these staff shortages are increased workloads for remaining nurses, resulting in limited time for delivering quality care and addressing patients’ individual needs. This situation leads to a focus on providing basic care rather than more comprehensive care that can improve patient health outcomes and reduce hospital admissions.

The Albanese Government has acknowledged this issue, pledging to address the shortage by hiring additional nurses and mandating 215 care minutes per patient per day. However, meeting the initial deadline of July 2023 may prove challenging, leaving aged care nurses to continue grappling with staff shortages, elevated workloads and heightened stress levels.

APNA President Karen Booth expressed concern over the underutilisation of aged care nurses’ skills and emphasised the need for improved resourcing and time allocation. “Primary health care nurses are ready, willing, and able to do more. They are highly motivated, highly educated, and highly experienced.

“If nurses in aged care had the time and resourcing to provide more advanced levels of care, such as preventative care and to properly manage chronic conditions with their patients, this would help improve the overall health of their patients and reduce the burden on the health system.

“This underutilisation of nurse skills, RN and EEN, represents a missed opportunity for the Australian health system, patients, and families,” Booth said.

Booth also expressed APNA’s commitment to collaborating with the Albanese Government to expedite the implementation of necessary reforms in the aged care sector. Addressing workforce shortages and ensuring nurses have the time and resources to deliver advanced levels of care will benefit not only patients and families but also the Australian health system as a whole.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.


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