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Nurse to patient ratios vital in aged care

ANMF,nurse,enrolled nurse,assistants in nursing,ag
Photo: ANMF,nurse,enrolled nurse,assistants in nursing,ag
Nurse to patient ratios in Australia’s aged care facilities will improve residents’ care and bolster the sector as a more attractive career path for nurses, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

The ANMF is calling for the introduction of mandated staffing levels and skills mix in residential aged care facilities.

ANMF federal secretary Lee Thomas said the move will ensure registered nurses continue to work in the sector.

“We know we are struggling to keep registered nurses in the sector and they are a vital part of aged care,” she said.

“What we want to see is that there is some mechanism that is mandated and legislated so that we can assure residents and their families and people working in the sector that there are the right number of staff on duty at any time, with the right skills to be able to deliver that care, in what is an increasingly complex environment.”
The ANMF wants a registered nurse on-site at all aged care facilities 24-hours a day, seven days a week, alongside minimum staffing levels and skills mix, and a national registration scheme for assistants-in-nursing (AINs).

“We also want to be able to ensure that registered nurses, enrolled nurses and assistants-in-nursing have the right education but have mandatory minimums in terms of education to work in the sector,” Ms Thomas said.

“We want to see obviously an increase in wages, commensurate with the work that they do.”

Ms Thomas said the ANMF will begin a project this year to determine the appropriate staffing levels and skills mix for aged care facilities.

After its completion, the federation will then begin campaigning for the introduction of ratios in aged care, which could be implemented either through enterprise bargaining or legislation at a national level.

“That way everybody knows what the right staffing levels and skills mix are in that sector, our members are able to deliver quality care and they’re working in an environment where their workloads are manageable,” she said.

“Providers get very nervous about ratios, they say ratios are a blunt instrument but how else can you control workload and provide a quality care environment when you have a wet finger barometer outcome in terms of staffing levels and skills mix?

“This just seems to me to be completely incongruous at a time when we know that people in aged care, residential care, are getting sicker and more frail and have more complex medical conditions that need nursing care.”

With Australia’s rapidly ageing population, Ms Thomas said improved wages and working conditions are crucial to attracting more registered and enrolled nurses into the sector, now experiencing a shortfall of 20,000 nurses.

“I think it’s behoven upon us all, and that is Federal Government and all of the way down, to make aged care an attractive place to work so that we don’t have recruitment and retention issues,” she said.

“Also that we make it a career of choice - a place to work that provides good career pathways, good opportunities and an area where it becomes that there are employers of choice.”

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords