A personal reflection working in aged care

Close up of old woman hands.

In recent years, applications for residential aged care jobs have diminished, with companies in local areas fighting for the same staff.

What will this mean for the future of residential aged care? Will there be enough staff within the qualified workforce to enforce the department’s mandated care hours in 2023?

Residential aged care services are in need now and are impacted daily with the lack of staff. Nurses are often told they are not “real” nurses or not busy if they work in aged care.

This could not be further from the truth, and aged care needs your help now.

Those who choose a career in the aged care industry do so because they care.

In previous years, the industry has become an avenue for ongoing media scrutiny, making out that all residents are neglected and the staff are heartless.

It is hard to view the media, turning the industry into something it is not and creating a society of fear regarding all residential aged care services being provided.

Why would a young person want to work in aged care? Although heard for generations, many would commence as a personal care worker or enrolled nurse. From there, continue to study and become a registered nurse and advance to care manager and then residential manager.

There are so many opportunities within the aged care industry. There are quality and safeguards, work health and safety, people and culture, hospitality and domestic staff and management roles all available and more.

So many personal care workers, nurses and managers hold genuine responsibility and focus on ensuring that each and every resident receives the best in safe and quality care and services they can provide.

This career is not chosen for financial benefits but more for the daily satisfaction of making a difference in people’s lives. Aged care has challenged staff ratios for years, and while un-mandated, the industry still continues to provide care and services well within the standards.

Services hire a head chef who will not only provide amazing quality food but step it up to ensure a hospitality service style is always portrayed. With a focus on customer service, residential aged care services deliver ongoing nursing care for clinical needs and services that provide a quality of life that would not be available outside a service environment.

Companies provide this to enhance quality of life and service for those who are ageing and require assistance with daily living requirements. Staff provide this because they want to help others and hold a passion for the aged care industry.

Everything changed due to COVID-19, impacting all residential aged care services. Staff in residential aged care turned up every day and wore masks well before other industries or the general public was mandated to do so.

The minute there was risk of infection, staff were provided full PPE, worn, sweating their butts off, and continued to provide the best quality services they could.

They did not stay at home and keep themselves safe; they were healthcare workers. Many services endured COVID-19 outbreaks. Staff watched residents pass away and cried day in and day out at what everyone was going through, unable to stop the inevitable and continue putting themselves at risk.

Much of this occurred before the vaccines, and the fear was real. The impact of working in a COVID-19 outbreak is something that no one will ever forget, and many will live with, impacted both physically and mentally forever. Those who worked through this will always feel responsible to those who lost their lives, knowing honestly there was nothing that anyone could have done to change it.

And now, as the dust settles, numerous people have left the industry and moved to adjacent careers. For many, the post-traumatic stress of working through a COVID-19 outbreak kicks in when removed from the environment, and they are no longer surrounded by those who understand what they have been through. And for those who stay, the continued decrease and mass exit of staff from the industry will continue to impact the residents living in residential aged care.

Let’s set the record straight, aged care is worth the fight and needs more staff to help now. It is real nursing, and many hold a passion that deserves more than what the media poetry the industry to be.

Rebecca Dew, Master of Nursing (Leadership and Management), GradDip, GradCert and Bach General Manager

4 Responses

  1. Great article. Hopefully age care gets the workers they need. It’s such a rewarding career.

  2. This is a true reflection on aged care I personally have worked in aged care for the last 20 years and watch the dedication nurses , carers, managers and all staff work so hard to give the best care for our residents
    The staffing now is at critical stage the staff that choose to stay are hero’s as they work so hard to provide the best care to the residents

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