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What they don’t tell you when becoming an aged care nurse

Some of the roles of a nurse in aged care may seem unexpected

<p>Working as a nurse in aged care can be rewarding, but there may be some unexpected aspects and tasks involved in the role. [Source: Shutterstock]</p>

Working as a nurse in aged care can be rewarding, but there may be some unexpected aspects and tasks involved in the role. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points

  • Over 38,000 registered nurses are employed in Australian aged care settings
  • While typical roles of a nurse include administering medication and wound management, nurses working in aged care may find themselves helping with some other tasks
  • Unexpected aspects can include providing counselling, being an advocate for older Australians and assisting with manual handling

Whether you’re an aged care nurse who works in a residential care home setting or visits people in their homes, taking on other roles you may not have considered is often part of caring for older Australians. 

With shortages in the aged care industry, nurses may be required to assist in helping other aged care workers with the general care of residents. 

Around 370,000 aged care workers in Australia are currently employed in direct and indirect roles according to recent statistics. However, current estimates suggest that there will be the equivalent of 212,000 full-time worker roles that are not filled in the aged care industry by 2050.

Over 38,000 registered nurses are currently employed in the Australian aged care industry, with 47 percent of these nurses working part-time hours, according to the latest data available from Jobs and Skills Australia.

When joining as a registered nurse in an aged care home, expected duties would include assisting residents with administering their medications, wound management and personal cleaning. However, when completing these tasks, taking on the role of others may occur unexpectedly, requiring skills in adapting and flexibility. 


Accidental counsellor 

When changing a wound dressing or bandage, for example, the resident may divulge personal information about their life or circumstances to the nurse providing care if they feel comfortable enough. Sometimes this can involve discussion of distressing topics such as depression or even thoughts of suicide mentioned by the patient.

Being an accidental counsellor means that you find yourself in a position of providing counselling to someone despite not having received formal training in the area. This can occur when you are in the presence of family, friends, strangers or co-workers who are experiencing great distress. 

Accidental counsellor training courses are available all over the country and can be delivered in person or virtually. Teaching skills such as active listening and asking questions that are both calming and gentle are often included to help participants feel confident in supporting others in distress. 

While the content and duration of courses vary, feeling more comfortable helping people in times of great stress can be rewarding. One course, offered by Lifeline includes self-guided learning and a group session with a trained Lifeline educator for a total duration of five hours. 

If you are concerned about a resident or client and are trying to figure out what to do, speak to a supervisor or other trusted colleague to help understand the next steps.

Such conversations with residents, especially when they occur unexpectedly, can be distressing. Looking after your mental health is necessary to ensure you can continue to provide the best care possible for residents. 



According to the Australian College of Nursing, ‘nurses, as part of clinical governance systems, contribute to measuring, monitoring and improving the quality, safety and appropriateness of clinical care.’

Speaking up on behalf of patients and residents is especially important when they cannot voice concerns themselves. 

In one study, nurses were found to advocate for their patients through methods of prioritising the patients’ health, understanding the patients’ needs and ensuring that care plans were completed.


Manual handler

When assisting a resident in using the toilet or changing incontinence products, a nurse may be required to lift a resident with the assistance of another worker, using a mechanical aid or with the assistance of the resident. 

Regardless of the method, such repetitive lifting can cause significant physical stress to nurses. This can include lifting, holding and lowering residents while personal care is completed. 

To reduce the likelihood of injury through manual handling, nurses should aim to keep the load close to their bodies and bend their knees. Asking for help from other co-workers is essential when you don’t feel comfortable lifting something alone is essential.


If you’re looking to start working in aged care, learning about all the different duties and responsibilities of people working in aged care can give you a solid understanding of what you can expect in the aged care industry.


Did some of the tasks of an aged care nurse surprise you?

Let the team at Talking Aged Care know why on social media. 

For more information and news in the aged care industry, subscribe to our free newsletter. 

Relevant content:

How staff and families differ on CCTV in aged care facilities

Expert attacked for encouraging vulnerable Aussies to get vaccinated

Why Easter matters more in aged care homes

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