Relationships with residents are the key to quality care

Central Coast QACAG members were busy during the holiday period when they held a stall at Deepwater Plaza at Woy Woy.
Central Coast QACAG members were busy during the holiday period when they held a stall at Deepwater Plaza at Woy Woy.

More time to spend with residents is the wished-for priority of many aged care nurses, according to research conducted by the NSWNA.New research by the NSWNA has found a lack of staff and higher incidents of dementia among residents is increasing the pressure on aged care nurses.

The study was conducted at the end of 2011 as the NSWNA began preparations for the renewal of the model agreement in the for-profit aged care sector.

A common theme among all the participants was that a love of aged care drives aged care nurses. None regretted their decision to move into nursing. In fact some wished they had come into it earlier.

‘I never wanted to be a nurse as a child and I only joined the profession in my mid-40s. I really regret not doing it earlier,’ said one participant.

What aged care nurses love most about the sector was the interaction with the older people.

‘I find older persons have the most amazing stories and a wealth of knowledge to impart and you do truly become like part of the family although it can be difficult to not get emotionally involved.’

Dementia poses problems

A particular challenge in aged care is the complexity of residents, often associated with dementia. But if there is time to devote to help it can be a most rewarding part of the job.

‘For a confused resident all it might take to calm and reassure them is to know that I know their son or daughter by name, or I know their dog is being cared for by their granddaughter, and can talk about when they have had visitors or an outing. Knowing what TV shows or music they like and putting them on, can make a huge difference. There is a great satisfaction in knowing you settled a resident who was distressed, by such a small intervention.’

Participants in the survey commented about excessive workloads due to staff shortages, lack of nurse-to-patient ratios, poor staffing and inappropriate skill mix.

The workload is heavy and seems to be increasing due to the poor level of staffing which leads to the lower level of care.

‘Dementia must be the fastest growing issue in aged care and its management. It is a big part of workloads issues and managing groups of residents.’

More members leads to better outcomes

Looking forward to the bargaining campaign some participants warned against complacency and of the need for more people to join the union if there were to be good outcomes.

‘The majority (of staff) are not in the union which makes it more difficult for collective bargaining and (they) are OK to just sit back and what happens, happens.’

Many of the participants saw the connection between a strong union presence in the workplace and winning better pay and conditions.

‘If union membership is low and staff won’t bother being involved the results show in working conditions and actual pay received. It is hard to make any progress with future agreements when the AiNs and some RNs don’t join the union and try to change our future pay and conditions.’

A more comprehensive presentation of the research including attitudes to the pay and conditions campaign will be presented at the regional meetings to be held in mid-February.

Tony Windsor asked to support aged care funding

Prominent Federal Independent MP Tony Windsor will be the focus of activities in the Because We Care campaign in February and March.

The ANF has have identified one key Federal MP in each state who will be urged to support funding in the 2012 federal budget of $494 million to close the wages gap between nurses in aged care and the public health systems.

Tony Windsor has been broadly supportive of the campaign’s aims.

Aged care members in the New England electorate will be will be conducting street stalls and letterbox drops, talking to local media and collecting signatures on a petition. These actions will culminate in an ‘Aged Care Can’t Wait’ public meeting in Tamworth on 7 March.

Tamworth aged care nurse Jan Howard will be speaking at the meeting about the day-to-day reality of working in aged care.

‘We will not only be looking to get the support of Tony Windsor but also the support of the local community including health workers, community groups and organisations, and local businesses,’ she said.

To become involved or find out more contact Stella Topaz, Professional Officer NSWNA on 02 8595 1234 or stopaz@nswnurses.asn.au

What we are asking Tony Windsor to do

  • Push to make Budget 2012 the aged care budget
  • Ensure quality of care by guaranteeing a minimum number of nurses to residents on every shift
  • Ensure that Budget 2012 commits the funds to close the wages gap and guarantee nurses remain in aged care.

Nurses in Tamworth will be holding a community meeting on Wednesday 7 March at 7.00pm in the Tamworth Community Centre.

Speakers will include:

Tony Windsor, MP Member for New England

Yvonne Chaperon, Assistant Federal Secretary ANF

Jan Howard, Aged care nurse

Ros Norman, Local nurse

Maryanne Krug, Relative of a resident in a nursing home.