Introduction by Croakey: Increased wages for aged care nurses in this week’s Budget will help address critical workforce shortages, according to Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, CEO of Australian College of Nursing.
However, she writes below that additional long-term strategies such as increasing registration options for internationally-qualified nurses to work in Australia will go a long way towards “establishing a secure and sustainable aged care nursing workforce”.
Kylie Ward writes:
Older Australians deserve around-the-clock clinical care from Registered and Enrolled nurses.
However, the 1 July deadline to put 24/7 nurses in residential aged care facilities is putting extra stress on a sector already under pressure. We have already seen entire residential homes close, and we’re hearing from our members that beds in some facilities are closing in in preparation for the deadline.
This will be particularly difficult for residents in regional, rural and remote areas where they may have no alternative options.
The current Government has inherited a system already under significant stress, with COVID-19 exacerbating pre-existing pressures and workforce shortages.
The Budget announced measures aimed at reducing these workforce shortages, including increasing wages for aged care nurses, but we need a long-term solution. Our older Australians deserve better. Our nurses deserve better.
Nurses are not numbers and should not be treated as such. We are highly trained and specialised, and the aged care sector has been depleted of nurses for many years now. It will take time to rebuild, attract, educate and develop the nursing workforce capable of providing the safe and appropriate care older Australians deserve.
We need direct nursing positions as well as indirect positions like Nurse Educators, Clinical Nurse Consultants and Nurse Practitioners to support a nurse on every shift in every facility across the country.
At the very least, retention initiatives must include supporting new graduate nurses to transition successfully into clinical roles in residential aged care facilities.
Also crucial is improving Australia’s competitiveness as a destination for internationally qualified nurses in the context of a global nursing shortage. The Budget provided provisions for removing bureaucratic red tape to expedite a skilled migrant heading to Australia, but provisions must also be made to support them once they are here.
With a global nursing shortage, competition from other developed countries for trained nurses is fierce. We urgently need to rethink our strategy for attracting and retaining overseas-trained nurses to supplement our domestic workforce.
It has taken years for aged care to get into this position, and it cannot be reversed in a couple of months or a year or two.
Establishing a secure and sustainable aged care nursing workforce will require long-term collaboration between the Government and the nursing and aged care sectors.
This needs to include consideration of the following strategies:
- Support the next generation of aged care nurses through additional investment for education providers to deliver the Aged Care Transition to Practice program and beyond 2024. This important program gives newly graduated nurses training in clinical leadership and health team management, which enables them to lead aged care teams to provide high-quality care to residents.
- Upskill nurses currently working in aged care through scholarships to undertake a Graduate Certificate in Aged Care. This will help to ensure that nurses leading clinical governance, high-quality care, and oversight of the aged care workforce are well-equipped and supported through specialist postgraduate training.
- Increase the options for internationally qualified nurses to become registered in Australia, including allowing multiple bridging pathways and developing online training and assessment for internationally qualified nurses who come to or currently live in Australia to potentially reduce the cost of training and allow faster and more accessible pathways to have their credentials recognised.
- Provide overseas nurses with support systems to help them settle into their new country, such as access to affordable housing, mentors to help them navigate new health systems and processes, access to universal health care, and support for family members who accompany them as outlined in the Migrant Integration Policy Index.
- Increase peer support for overseas-trained nurses who choose to live and work in Australia, building on measures such as ACN’s Mentor Match program to provide migrant nurses with on-the-ground or virtual support to help them feel welcomed and allowing them to better integrate into Australia’s complex health system while drawing on the knowledge and expertise of locally trained nurses.
- Provide scholarships for migrant and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses working in aged care to encourage their uptake of continuing professional development and strengthen their clinical leadership and management skills, recognising the benefits of a culturally and linguistically diverse nursing workforce.
By adopting a collaborative and multi-pronged approach to recruiting, nurturing and supporting aged care nurses, we can ensure we get the right workforce – not just the right numbers.
No nurse wants to see the residents they care for displaced.
Read the ACN’s Budget response here.
See Croakey’s extensive archive of articles on health workforce.
Leave a Reply