Aged care workforce defies employment trend

king-martinA study of the aged care workforce by the National Institute of Labour Studies (NILS) at Flinders University has found that community-based workers enjoy higher job satisfaction than workers in residential facilities.

This is despite casual work and very short working hours making up much of community-based aged care.

Professor Bill Martin [pictured right], one of the study’s chief investigators, said workers attribute greater job satisfaction to less time spent in administration, their ability to spend more time with those they care for, and less stress.

“The fundamental thing is that aged care workers get most of their job satisfaction out of their relationships with the people that they care for. The way the work is organised in community-based set-ups is more conducive to satisfied workers,” Professor Martin said.

The analysis is based on two consecutive surveys conducted by Professor Martin and Dr Deb King [pictured left].

An initial survey of workers in residential age care facilities was commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing in 2003, and presented the first comprehensive and accurate picture of that workforce. A follow-up survey in 2007 was expanded to include samples of community-based aged care workers.

A significant trend discovered by the comparative study is a continuing shift in the workforce in residential facilities towards “personal carers” and away from registered nurses. Registered nurses are less involved in day-to-day care and essentially have taken up managing roles, Professor Martin said.

Simultaneously, in response to Government initiatives, there has been a marked increase in the proportion of personal carers with qualifications, typically at TAFE certificate level.

While there is continuing debate about appropriate skill levels in aged care, Professor Martin said it is clear that the carers themselves feel that they have the skills they need.

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