Posted by: TimsGirl
Posted: 21st Jul 2011
i have a real simple solution to fix one of the major problems in aged care - pay staff a decent wage.
Aged care sadly is full of people who speak little english, or are just doing it until they can get a better job, or quite simply are there because they are abusers and the elderly make easy targets.
I'm not saying all aged care nurses are like this - I work part time in aged care - but quite frankly, I'm in the category of "just doing it til I can get a better job". I'm only there while I'm at uni and when I graduate and become an RN, I plan to work in a hospital. I'm just in aged care because that's the first job I got offered in nursing and want to show my employer that I'm loyal to them til I graduate. I could get a hospital job paying a few dollars more per hour quite easily, but at the moment (being on a part disability pension myself), I only get to keep roughly 5% of what I make working after tax and loss of pension and cost of getting to work so the extra I'd get changing to a hospital job wouldn't make much difference to my net income.
And for the people I work with, many are in similar situations - most are either at uni/tafe studying to be EENs or RNs and will move out of aged care when they qualified, or they are from non english speaking backgrounds and are just working in aged care til they get their english up to scratch and enough experience and study to get their qualifications recognised in australia and will move out of aged care as soon as they do - more than half the staff at the nursing home that I work are from NESBs. And then there are the mature aged staff, many of whom are there just trying to save up enough to start their own business or study towards a profession they really want to do.
And why? well part of it is because it's physically and emotionally demanding work, but the underlying reason is the pay - we work a tough, demanding, draining job, and we get paid minimum wage for it.
I recently checked award wages and for a qualified assistant nurse (ie one that has paid lots of money at tafe to get qualified) with a years experience has an award wage LOWER than retail assistants. My work pays only 10c more an hour than the award.
I was seriously getting paid more per hour working as a shelf filler at coles 12 years ago than I do now as an assistant nurse - and I have two univerisity degrees now and am only months away from finishing my third.
The truth is, if I was there for the money, I wouldn't be working there. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but because of my own ill health, it's literally killing me. But I've been told by many others, the only way to get a decent job as an RN when you finish uni is to worked as an assistant nurse while you study - so while I make next to nothing working, the littleI make does help, and it's leading to a slightly better paying job in the future.
But sadly people who want to work in aged care because they want to help, simply can't afford long term to do it - when the choice is working in aged care or paying your own bills, most people move onto a job that pays better so they can pay the bills.
That is why many aged care facilities end up with abusers on staff - the good staff can't afford to keep working there, they choose supporting their family over working in aged care, and that only leaves people with not so selflessmotives - I'm not knocking those who work in aged care as a stepping stone to other types of nursing work - if there weren't people like us, the "transient aged care workers", our aged care facilities would simply be unable to get remotely enough staff - but it does leave many places open to being stuck with staff who have undesirable motives for working there.
If the government insisted on a fair wage for nurses in aged care facilities, the good staff would be able to afford to stick around - and bad staff would be more noticeable and be gotten rid of.
And quite simply - if the government doesn't start doing something about better pay for aged care nurses, there won't be enough of any type of staff - good or bad. While working as a receptionist or checkout chick or shelf filler pays so much more than nursing (and often better hours too), what incentive is there for anyone to keep working in aged care??? Beyond those who are working in aged care while studying (nursing, english skills or something else), no one else really goes into aged care anymore. As the older generation retire and the younger generations finish studying and move on to better paying jobs, and students decide it's better to work as something else while studying, where will they get aged care nurses in the near future???
The government needs to start paying nurses what they deserve- not the pathetic minimum wage garbage. Reply