Australia’s national professional association for nurses has released a report calling for minimum education requirements and nationally consistent terminology for the nation’s unregulated health and aged care workers.
The Australian College of Nursing released the white paper Regulation of the Unregulated Health Care Workforce across the health care system at its annual Policy Summit in Canberra last week.
The paper, which was developed by ACN’s Workforce Sustainability Policy Chapter, investigated the key issues surrounding unregulated health care workers across primary, acute and aged care settings and makes recommendations to the Australian government to improve the workforce.
Among those recommendations, the paper calls for nationally consistent regulation of personal care workers that includes a minimum qualification before working in residential aged care and ongoing professional development.
Australian College of Nursing chief executive officer Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward said minimum education levels were required to ensure older Australians were receiving care from skilled professionals.
“The ACN calls on the Commonwealth Government to ensure that unregulated health care workers are better equipped with the training and assessment when entering the workforce,” Professor Ward told Australian Ageing Agenda.
It is a key issue because personal care workers make up 70 per cent of the residential aged care workforce, she said.
Australian College of Nursing chair of the Ageing Policy Chapter Professor Deborah Parker raised this issue at the aged care royal commission into in February saying personal care workers were taking on the roles of registered nurses with minimal training due to a staffing shortfall in the aged care sector (read more here).
ACN’s report highlights the variability in educational preparedness among personal care workers and the subsequent inconsistencies with recruiting staff into specific roles, along with a lack of a national code of conduct and consistent national qualification requirements for unregulated health care workers in Australia.
ACN backs calls for personal care workers to be licensed to improve transparency.
“They are not licensed or governed through national regulation, which means there is no transparency or protection for the public,” Professor Ward said.
The Aged Care Workforce Taskforce led by Professor John Pollaers recommended centralised registration of all care workers and volunteers.
Professor Ward said inconsistencies with job titles also needed to be addressed.
“Across the country and within different health settings, their job title, scope of practice and responsibilities vary. ACN believes there should be nationally consistent titles to reduce inconsistencies and improve clarity,” Professor Ward said.
Professor Ward said changes needed to be made to the workforce to ensure the future needs of older Australians could be met.
The ACN paper recommends:
- unregulated health care workers must be regulated and nationally consistent nomenclature or titles, code of conduct, professional standards and scope of practice must be developed and implemented
- the unregulated health care workforce must be regulated to achieve nationally consistent, minimum educational and ongoing professional development requirements.
Access the Regulation of the Unregulated Health Care Workforce across the health care system white paper here.
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