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Study outlines the skills registered nurses will need in the future

The need for registered nurses in Australia is far outstripping their number, according to the recent Productivity Commission report on aged care services.

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The report found that while the overall number of aged care staff has increased over the last five years, the number of registered nurses has not, leaving a skill shortage in the industry.

The survey National Aged Care Staffing and Skills Mix Project Report 2016 indicated that the number of aged care nurses were reaching ‘crisis’ lows, but ensuring ratios of registered nurses to other staff would ensure quality of care.

Ross Johnston, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Regis Aged Care, said in the 2016 Deloitte Access Economics report on the aged care sector that the aged care workforce has changed notably over the last five years.

“Of our approximately 6,800 staff, roughly 10% are registered nurses,” says Ross. “Registered nurses are in high demand as care requirements become increasingly complex, but can be hard to find – especially in regional areas. Graduate nurses enter into a competitive labour market, with the majority preferring to specialise in acute areas through placements in hospitals rather than aged care facilities.”

With practices and standards currently varying across service providers, the non-profit providers who make up the Nursing in Aged Care Collaborative are now leading a movement to create an industry standard framework.

A study, produced in partnership between the University of Wollongong and the NACC, develops a competency framework to better understand the skills and knowledge RNs will need in the future.

Associate professor Victoria Traynor, from the University of Wollongong’s school of nursing, says a competency framework will “give the public reassurance that the aged care industry is going to deliver services of a high standard.”

The study drew on the experiences of current senior registered nurses to address issues providers are currently grappling with, such as the recruitment, retainment and education of staff and the implementation of specialist services.

“The participants thought it should have two levels of practice: an essential level of practice for most registered nurses working in aged care; and an enhanced level of practice for those who are an expert in the specialism,” said Professor Traynor

She says the framework, which had a 95 percent agreement from participants, could be used in areas such as recruitment, in house training, and even university courses for registered nurses.

The study will be available on the Aged and Dementia Health Education and Research website later this year.


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