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Several aged care facilities have closed due to the 24/7 nursing mandate.

How to navigate the 24/7 nurse staffing mandate: Opinion 

Following the federal government's new 24/7 nursing requirement, aged care providers must adopt a multi-faceted approach to staffing and training.

The new laws – which have lead to the closure of at least 16 facilities across Australia – have created a “seismic shift” in the industry, which now needs to adapt to new ways of working while simultaneously dealing with the ongoing issue of attracting and retaining workers. 

The transition to round-the-clock staffing has been demanding, and it now requires effective and sustainable solutions to ensure compliance and the continued delivery of high-quality care to residents.

Aged care providers must embrace staffing flexibility, incorporating a mix of permanent staff, casual workers, and part-time employees to ensure uninterrupted coverage. 

This blend of workforce segments not only meets the 24/7 mandate but also offers the agility required to manage varying care needs. 

Under the new laws, approved providers of residential care or flexible care provided to care recipients in a residential facility must have at least one registered nurse on-site and on duty, 24 hours a day across seven days a week. 

It's been reported that the number of aged care homes that have closed in Australia has been on the rise in recent years. In the past 15 months, there have been at least 16 closures impacting around 350 beds. 

What we’re seeing is that, on average, one aged care facility closes its doors every month because of the demands of the new laws.

The only way to deal with this is to adapt as efficiently as possible.

Several key strategies could help providers meet the new requirements while maintaining high levels of care. These include: 

  • Staffing Flexibility: Aged care providers can implement staffing flexibility by maintaining a mix of permanent staff, casual workers, and part-time employees. This approach ensures continuous coverage across all shifts, effectively meeting the 24/7 staffing mandate. 
  • Roster Optimisation: Efficient rostering practices are essential to address the demands of the 24/7 staffing laws. Providers should predict peak hours and resident activity, identify potential coverage gaps, and leverage rostering software to streamline the scheduling process. 
  • Technology Integration: Aged care facilities can benefit from integrating technology, such as workforce management tools, to aid in optimising staffing levels and schedules. Modern solutions can help create balanced rosters aligned with the new staffing regulations. 
  • Training and Upskilling: Investing in training and upskilling programs for staff is crucial to ensure that they can handle the demands of 24/7 care. This includes education on mental health support and specialised care for residents. 
  • Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing: Aged care providers should actively collaborate with industry stakeholders, workforce management experts, and government agencies to share best practices and strategies for meeting staffing laws. Collective knowledge sharing can help the sector adapt and thrive in this transformative period. 

One key to all this is the role of rostering optimisation. Efficient rostering is a linchpin in achieving compliance.

Predictive rostering aligns staff resources with resident activity and care demands, contributing to the welfare of residents and regulatory compliance. 

The road to compliance with the 24/7 staffing laws may be challenging, but by adopting staffing flexibility and optimising rosters, providers can not only meet the legal requirements but also ensure the well-being of aged care residents and the sustainability of their facilities. 

Cameron Fancourt is the director of Zonda Group, a healthcare recruitment business.

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