Nurses key to quality aged care

‘Aged care is my passion’

Cheryl Edwards has been working in aged care all her working life – except for a short stint in intensive care and anaesthetics. ‘My real passion is aged care,’ she said.

‘I have the firm belief that our elderly residents have been the pillars of our society and they haven’t done anything wrong, except to grow old and frail and they deserve the best we can give them.

‘We need qualified nurses in aged care, so we can continue to provide the quality of care they so deserve.’

With the backing of 20 years’ experience as a senior nurse manager in the sector, Cheryl Edwards believes it is important to have nurse managers in aged care. Cheryl works as DoN at Anita Villa Nursing Home in Katoomba – a facility with 102, mostly high-care beds.

‘It’s definitely essential to have a nursing background in my position. On one hand, I understand residents’ care needs; on the other, I also understand nurse roles and the issues affecting nurses such as workloads.’

Cheryl describes her role a frontline position. ‘An important aspect of the job is communication – communication with families, residents, staff and the facility owners. A large part of my day is spent meeting with staff, residents and management, and keeping up with what’s happening across the facility,’ she said.

‘As a senior nurse, I’m also there to provide clinical support and back up to staff when required.’

Cheryl has witnessed a transformation of the aged care nursing workforce over the past ten years.

‘The aged care sector has changed a lot over the past decade. There is a greater need for people with nursing skills,’ she said.

‘Once untrained people were able to step into care roles because the care needs of residents were less. There was greater turnover of staff and staff were more easily replaced,’ she said.

‘Now we need staff with nursing qualifications and skills because residents have higher and more complex care needs.

‘There’s still a place for a range of nurse roles in aged care.

‘RNs play a more supervisory role now. The RN role is becoming more academic, away from bedside. Accreditation has meant a lot of paperwork for RNs.

‘ENs and AiNs play a vital role in aged care. They are the hands and feet who deliver care. I try to acknowledge their contributions.

‘It’s important nurses are undertaking nursing duties, and that non-nursing duties are delegated to non nurses. For example, rostering,’ she said.

Cheryl said care staff at her facility are encouraged to undertake training to develop their skills and qualifications.

‘Only today I gave flowers to an EEN who has embraced the opportunity to expand her role. She came on board here and undertook a Certificate III to become an AIN. Then she did further training to become an EN, and then went on to become an EEN. She’s done really well and is doing a great job,’ she said.

Getting active for quality care

The NSWNA initiated the establishment of the Quality Aged Care Action Group (QACAG) in October 2005 in response to care quality concerns posed by funding pressures and the pursuit of bottom line by some facility owners. QACAG provides a forum for concerned relatives of aged care residents, community supporters, consumers, nurses, care workers and medical practitioners to discuss quality care issues and develop strategies to improve the quality of aged care.

QACAG aims to raise awareness among the public about issues affecting the quality of care in aged care and lobbies the federal government for quarantined funding to be allocated for adequate staffing and care hours rather than just allocating a general funding pool to facilities.

Another point of concern is that not all care workers are licensed to ensure the safety of aged care residents.

QACAG meets at the NSWNA on a bi-monthly basis. If you would like to find out more about QACAG, email QACAG@nswnurses.asn.au or write to:

QACAG Secretariat PO Box 40 Camperdown 1450