industry & reform
Australian Army nurses Lance Corporal Reeana Davies and Private Cody Hitchcock don PPE before entering an aged care facility in Queensland . Photo : CPL Jesse Kane
The communication has had a big impact as well due to what ’ s been happening in the last couple of years , and quite often the guys on the frontline just feel a bit left out from some of the communication , and they don ’ t feel they know exactly what ’ s going on at times , then that creates that little bit of isolation as well .
The big elephant in the room is the fear of COVID as well , because when COVID hit , nothing really changed for them workwise . The only thing that did change was a lot of restrictions and guidelines and managing infection control , so it was pretty big for them . There ’ s really been no let-up for over two years now that we ’ ve been dealing with this .
What do you think we need right now from management and leadership to help retain people in our workforce ? For me it ’ s about being more transparent from a leadership perspective around issues that impact the frontline workers . I think a lot of times when you talk to them , they don ’ t really know what ’ s happening until after the fact and there ’ s a lot of stress , anxiety , fear and uncertainty . They ’ re not aware of what ’ s going on , so they are faced with that until the news comes .
For me , having that sort of transparency is a great way to build trust to create the culture you ’ re looking for in the aged care space . We ’ re dealing with people ’ s lives and people ’ s emotions here . That ’ s what we ’ re built upon , and often I think that isn ’ t stressed and focused on enough from a leadership perspective .
How do you think the media ’ s contributed to this in terms of the way it ’ s framing the sector , and do you think it ’ s going to affect the number of people who would want to enter the sector ? Yes , I think so . When you look at the way things have transpired over the last few years , with a lot of aged care reforms and then we had the royal commission , and then we ’ re hit by COVID . That ’ s quite a massive three changes within the industry .
The media highlight what ’ s going on , and now more than ever it ’ s out in the open for everyone to see . And the public are seeing a lot of negative stuff around the industry .
The industry ’ s been struggling for a while , but I think with those three things , that impact has now escalated and it ’ s out in the open for people to see , and I think it will impact someone ’ s decision to want to work in the industry .
I remember back when I did nursing close to 20 years ago aged care was looked upon a lot differently to other sectors , and it was almost the case that you would go and work in aged care if you couldn ’ t get a job anywhere else .
I found that quite fascinating . I was a mature-aged student as well , so I guess I ’ d had my time in the sun a bit more than the younger ones , but that was really interesting to see that that the ‘ sexy ’ options were ED and ICU .
But when I did work in aged care , I loved it so much because you need to have so many different skills and you need to have all your body system understandings in place , because quite often you ’ re on your own and you don ’ t have a lot of backup .
“ We need to make sure our staff are empowered and ready to make a difference .
I think the media plays a massive role in the future of the aged care system , and I think it ’ s needed – we need to highlight what ’ s going on so we can make improvements .
How do you think we can work to shift that mindset around aged care work and attract people to the sector ? When you talk to the guys out there on the frontline , quite often it ’ s not just about money . That gets thrown around a lot . ‘ Pay them more money , they ’ ll stay and we ’ ll get more people .’ But ultimately , you only work for more money if you need the money and if there ’ s other circumstances , but I haven ’ t heard too many people say to me that they left the job because they didn ’ t get enough money . It was generally because the workplace culture was poisonous or negative and they didn ’ t like being there . Or they had a bad manager . That ’ s pretty popular . Or the perception that they weren ’ t being treated the way they thought they should be or the way they would like to be in their role .
I think they deserve more money because of the work they do and the industry they ’ re in , but I don ’ t think that ’ s the answer . I think the answer lies in looking after the people who look after the people we look after .
There ’ s this huge focus on clients as it should be . But there needs to be a better balance between that and the focus on the frontline staff , because the people who look after the people you look after , they ’ re the ones that we need .
If we look after the staff who look after our clients , they ’ re going to do an amazing job because they ’ re going to want to be here , they ’ re going to want to deliver quality service because they ’ ve got pride in themselves and their job .
I understand you work with a lot of line managers . Are there any challenges that they are facing right now that we might not be aware of ? I think we ’ re all aware of them and it ’ s more about workload , stress and the impact
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