Almost three-quarters of aged care providers are struggling to recruit and retain enough registered nurses, according to a new industry report.
The findings – commissioned by aged care consultants Ideagen, formerly CompliSpace, – feature in the fourth annual Aged Care Workforce Report. It is based on 707 responses to a six-week survey that closed on 31 August and shows 71 per cent of providers are having difficulty hiring RNs.
When workers were asked about the feasibility of meeting the 24/7 RN requirement, 38 per cent said it was a serious challenge, 26 per cent described it as “difficult to achieve” while 12 per cent said it was “impossible to achieve”. The requirement was described as “moderately challenging” by 35 per cent of respondents.
“Registered nurses are one of the most in-demand professions in the country, yet the aged care system we are moving towards doesn’t seem to acknowledge they can find better paid work elsewhere in public hospitals,” said Ideagen senior vice president David Griffiths.
Since 1 July, all aged care homes have been required to have an RN onsite around-the-clock. As well, since 1 October, facilities have been required to provide an average of 200 care minutes per resident per day – 40 of which must be provided by an RN.
However, exemptions exist for facilities located in rural or remote areas of the country, and for sites with fewer than 30 beds.
“The Australian Government has sensibly acknowledged that not all providers will be able to meet the new threshold for round-the-clock nursing supervision from day one,” said Mr Griffiths. “But it is becoming clearer that some providers will never be able to meet the new standards without further support.”
The 39-page report – which builds on last year’s findings – also shows that 40 per cent of providers believe reaching the 200 minutes target will be “difficult to achieve”, while 21 per cent said it was “impossible to achieve”. Less than 10 per cent said the care minute requirements were “easy to achieve”.
“The royal commission into aged care found that older Australians needed better care from better qualified staff,” said Mr Griffith. “However, the reality in implementing a new system without the corresponding investment is doomed to fail.”
The Ideagen report also finds almost one-third of all aged care workers intend to leave the sector within three years (30 per cent). However, the workforce exodus has slowed significantly since last year. In 2022, 50 per cent said that they intended to leave the industry within the next three years.
Stress is among the top three reasons behind the departures (81 per cent) followed by “excessive overtime/expectations” (73 per cent), “too much paperwork” (68 per cent), and low pay (49 per cent).
Meanwhile, 41 per cent of workers report they lost half or more of their management team over the past 12 months.
The industry cannot afford to continue to haemorrhage staff. As Mr Griffiths writes in the report’s introduction: “Homes are desperate for staff, with 80 per cent reporting that an influx of new workers would be ‘very beneficial’.”
However, as Mr Griffiths acknowledges, although almost all workers have seen new staff commence at their facilities in the last year (97 per cent), “this new supply isn’t meeting demand.”
The report also covers workforce workload, reporting obligations, uptake of technology and home care.
Speaking of the recent spate of reforms, Mr Griffiths said: “Ideals are out of step with reality and the aged care industry cannot achieve the level of care that the law demands. The reason for this is simple and has been stated many times before: there are not enough adequately qualified staff working in aged care.”