Attracting New Grads To Aged Care

New grads entering the nursing profession are finding new opportunities in the aged care sector in rural areas.

It’s no secret that Australia is facing a shortage of nurses in aged care and is increasingly unable to meet the needs of a rapidly ageing population.

‘Wage disparity has led to a staffing crisis. Ignoring this issue means The problem of attracting nurses and Assistants in Nursing to aged care will continue long into the future,’ said ANF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas.

Under current policy, the demand for aged care services is unable to keep up with its supply. Cracks in the system will most likely begin to show by 2012, according to an Access Economics’ report called Caring Places, Volume 2 and the draft Productivity Commission report.

The report says that dementia-related illness will become more prevalent and will begin to put a strain on the aged care sector.

Aged care nurses, qualified and ready, are needed now more than ever.

Employers look for incentives

Aged care employers are beginning to feel this strain with low wages and working conditions making recruitment of younger nurses and recently graduating nurses into the sector, particularly in rural areas, a challenge.

‘Aged care is not sexy. It is becoming more difficult to attract younger nurses to rural areas as they seek opportunities in big cities. It’s essential that RNs remain in aged care mainly due to our diagnostic skills,’ said Penny Temple, RN, General Manager Horton House and Warmington Lodge in Yass.

Not-for-profit and for-profit aged care employers in rural areas, wanting to nip this problem in the bud, are offering recruitment incentives to RNs in the hope of attracting new blood into the sector.

Aged Care Services (ACS), an industrial organisation of employers of aged care and community care providers in the not-for-profit and charitable sector, offers a one-day course for RNs designed to assist them entering into the aged care sector.

There has been a growing demand for this course, particularly in rural areas. ‘We run courses in 10 regional areas from the far west to the far south coast and this course usually receives a lot of interest,’ said Margaret Bundred, Learning Centre Manager at ACS.

The course looks at various components of aged care: the changing environment of aged care and how RNs need to adopt solutions to adhere to these changes; scope of practice principle – which looks at what other members of the care team, such as ENs and EENs, can do so that RNs don’t burn out; leadership supervision and delegation; responsibility and accountability; and the comprehensive assessment of an aged care client.

Courses and incentives to attract nurses

Lyn Jones, an aged care RN at Horton House and Warmington Lodge in Yass, says it is difficult to recruit RNs to rural facilities due to the low pay scale, but courses like the one offered by ACS do prepare RNs to meet the growing expectations of the communities they live in and the ever-increasing challenges of the sector.

‘Due to the shortage of RNs in aged care, we have to increase delegation and strong team work with ENs, AINs, and PC staff. The course was excellent in teaching us about competencies and finding the right skill mix for staff,’ said Lyn.

‘There’s a big demand for this course in aged care, so it was also an opportunity for some of the newer RNs to attend this course and get a skills upgrade,’ she said.

Horton House and Warmington Lodge, a community-based, not-for-profit facility, is trying to attract younger nurses, as its core group of dedicated RNs is getting older.

Penny Temple told The Lamp that, along with her board of directors, she decided to take matters into her own hands to address this issue.

They now offer a $5,000 dollar scholarship to second-year student nurses through Australian Catholic University.

The main criteria to qualify for the scholarship are having aged care as an elective and passing all subjects.

Nurses, upon receiving their Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing would work for the facility for 12 months. They would be offered a full-time appointment and accommodation.

‘Our first recipient has just gone into third year. We hope we have an ongoing supply of younger and highly qualified nurses. It’s our way of trying to promote aged care as an option for younger nurses in rural areas,’ said Penny.

‘One of the problems with aged care is that we don’t have wage parity. If we had that, we would be able to attract and retain nurses,’ she said.

Developing existing staff

BUPA also offers a Graduate Nurse Program that places newly registered nurses into BUPA facilities around the country as part of their training.

The program, run in conjunction with The College of Nursing, is designed to attract recent graduate nurses to the aged care industry, giving them hands-on clinical exposure as well as professional development sessions.

Into its second year, the program started with 20 nurses who had just completed their Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in aged care.

Margaret Ryan, the Learning and Development Manager for BUPA, agrees there is a need for new blood in the sector but also saw it as an opportunity to develop existing staff. ‘About four participants in the program were existing staff members who had worked as AINs. They were looking for those opportunities in aged care to progress and develop their leadership skills.’

Comprehensive RN training

Chesalon Care Beecroft, a not-for-profit residential aged care facility, offers an informal graduate program, which manager Sharon Cumming is hoping to formalise.

‘We’ve had three recent graduates in the past 12 months we’ve been training. They’ve taken to the profession like ducks to water and are performing really well. Two out of the three have stayed on to work for us,’ she said.

The program at Chesalon Beecroft consists of initially partnering up recent grads up with more experienced nurses until they’re ready to work independently.

Sharon considers the combination of clinical, counselling, palliative and management skills that working at an aged care facility offers as a winning combination for the comprehensive training of RNs.

The program has been so successful for Chesalon Beecroft in terms of recruitment and retention of young RNs into the profession that Sharon now places in their job ads: ‘Graduates will be supported’.