As you will all probably know, there is a shortage of caregivers and nurses in the aged care sector throughout New Zealand. If we think about the factors that impact staffing in service sectors such as aged care; NZ has low unemployment rates, immigration changes that impact our overseas workers in this sector, an ageing population (e.g. increase in demand) and the fact that caring for the elderly can be quite a ‘personal’ role. I guess other factors that might also impact people applying to work in this sector is that many don’t know much about it – and may have ideas about what the role is like without really knowing. I was reading on Facebook (such an interesting place for people to nut off) recently that some people thought they would hate working in aged care because it is hard work, poor pay and tough environment. Other comments made me realise that people just don’t know much about it all. Firstly, thanks to Kristine Bartlett and the recent equal pay settlement, wages are better for caregivers. As of today, someone with no experience starts on $19.80/hour and if you have the relevant training you could earn $24.50/hour and these go up over the next few years in a couple of increments and training/development opportunities are available for caregivers, making this a real career option for people. I loved shift work too when I did it, going to do groceries or be on the road when most others were not is wicked!!
Caring for the elderly is an awesome job. I hate to use the word ‘privilege’ because it seems to be bandied around a lot and has lost some meaning, but actually caring for the elderly and being part of this sector is a kind of privilege. The facilities and services have improved out of sight over years, and you will know driving around that a number of rest homes/hospitals these days look like and feel like resorts! When I think of working in rest homes, I think of words like respect, fun, compassion, learning, supporting, doing my best and helping others to get the best out of their day. I think about my own folks and how I would like them to be treated if they were living in a rest home or hospital. I think about the stories I have been told by residents / patients and the families I have got to know through working in aged care. I think about the awesome caregivers, nurses, managers, staff who go above and beyond to make other people’s lives better. Seriously – it is an awesome job.
So how do we try and improve staffing in aged care? I am not going to push any political position (you know what they say about discussing politics), and so I am just giving an opinion based on years working in this sector and loving this sector. No doubt some of what I say might be unpopular, but I believe it to be true. We need a whole bunch of strategies to attract people to aged care and that includes things like:
- make sure everyone understands what the role is like
- be proud of working in this sector
- advertise the $$, the training and the options for people – it is what it is, lets celebrate the successes of the past few years
- welcome people from all cultures and backgrounds – if you have the right personal attributes, compassion, a strong work ethic and live guided by integrity then I hope you think about this as a career
- support overseas workers as caregivers and RN’s, and really help them to settle, grow and develop in this industry and NZ too
- offer a variety of training programmes and ways to enter the sector
If you are someone with natural empathy, compassion and want to make a difference in someone else’s life. If you are someone who reads this or other articles about caring for our elderly and is intrigued – then please consider aged care as a career pathway and look out for our roles advertised or those within your community.