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Get ’em while they’re young

The need for more aged care nurses is growing more urgent every year, but providers can act to minimise the recruitment challenge, writes Darragh O Keeffe.

Providing positive and meaningful placements to trainee nurses and high school students will help solve the workforce shortage.

Workplace expert Ken Byrne told the Aged Care Association Australia national congress in Melbourne last month that other sectors had found this to be a highly successful strategy.

“There is a lot to be said for getting young people into facilities on work experience. The police have had great success with this because they’ve realised it’s important to get people enthusiastic about the prospect of working for you when they’re young,” Byrne says.

The caveat was ensuring the experience was a positive and meaningful one, he says.

Providers also need to use local media to promote the positives about working in aged care.

“There is an endless stream of positive stories coming out of aged care facilities. Local newspapers are dying for this stuff. It all feeds into promoting aged care as an industry where people can make a difference – which tops the list of job satisfaction requirements,” he says.

Cynthia Payne, CEO of SummitCare, told the conference the challenge was providing a work environment that was fun and enjoyable while meeting occupational health and safety obligations “as the amount of documentation involved in aged care is anal retentive”.

Payne says a focus on education and training, and providing an individual career path, were found to be important in staff retention.

“We have a fast track program for new graduates with management aspirations. They are supported by solid mentorship to help them transition. We have found this very successful and popular,” she says.

However, Byrne added that mentors are only successful if used by people who want them.

“If they are foisted on people who are happy enough where they’re at, it becomes negative. Those people need a different form of support.”

Staff recognition was also crucially important in achieving a stable and productive workforce, says Byrne.

“People need to be appreciated. If people are coming into the job because they want to help and care for people, they like it when someone says thank you. They feel their work matters.”

Nicole Mahara from Frank Whiddon Masonic Homes agreed, saying staff value recognition and appreciation of their work, from both management and residents.

“We have a thank you program, and a above and beyond program where staff are rewarded with vouchers. We recognise long service leave and the CEO and board also recognise staff at a gala dinner,” she told the conference.

“For a young carer, perhaps not highly trained or educated, the power of getting recognition from management is incredible. Imagine him or her getting home and showing his family a letter of thanks from the CEO. That’s gold,” says Byrne.

Payne says SummitCare also has a focus on people recognition. Its programs include recognition excellence in care service, leadership, excellence in team work and living organisational culture.

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