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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Nurses and care workers feel ‘unseen, unvalued and cast aside’ – final ANMF survey results

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Overwhelmed and overworked nurses and care-workers identified chronic understaffing as the ‘fundamental contributor’ to the crisis in Australia’s nursing homes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with many feeling ‘unseen, unvalued and cast aside’, according to the final results of a national survey conducted by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

The ANMF National Aged Care COVID-19 Survey 2022, conducted from January 2022 to February 2022, asked nurses and carers about a range of workplace challenges they faced during the pandemic, including: access to vaccinations, RATs and properly-fitted PPE; infection, isolation and quarantine; work hours and leave and their intention to leave their jobs.

“The survey shows us that the staff remaining in aged care only do so for the love and respect of the people they care for, but their wages and conditions do not justify the risks and pressure they experience every time they go to work. It’s unsustainable.

ANMF federal secretary, Annie Butler

The findings and participants’ comments show how frontline aged care nurses and care-workers were physically and emotionally burnt-out after working additional, long shifts without adequate breaks and often without access to proper-fitting PPE:

  • 72 per cent received three doses of a COVID-19 vaccination, 27 per cent received two doses;
  • 73 per cent reported their employer provided RAT kits, 12 per cent relied on mass testing sites (no tests from employers or self-purchased) and 5 per cent relied on self-purchased RAT kits;
  • 23 per cent described their experience in accessing COVID vaccinations and testing as ‘fair’, 26 per cent as ‘good’ and 25 per cent as ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’;
  • 20 per cent reported never, rarely, or only sometimes having enough PPE;
  • 48 per cent reported working 8-hour shifts, 42 per cent worked long periods without sufficient breaks, 40 per cent worked double shifts and 35 per cent worked unpaid overtime;
  • 61 per cent reported their working hours were ‘a bit more’ or ‘a lot more’ than they would like;
  • 38 per cent reported their employer did not provide leave with pay due to COVID exposure;
  • 25 per cent reported their employer asked them to cancel/delay planned leave or return to work from leave due to COVID-19;
  • 37 per cent planned to leave their job within 1-5 years and 21 per cent planned to leave within the next 12-months.

One survey participant, a 64-year-old aged care worker from Victoria, summed it up in just a few words: “(We) are chronically short-staffed always. Some staff have resigned, and more are about too. Makes me very sad for the residents that rely on us so much but there is only so much we can take.”

“Aged care workers told us they feel ‘unseen, unvalued and cast aside’ – they’re overworked, stressed and are fast-losing hope and strength,” ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler said after releasing the final results of the survey today.

“Overwhelmingly, they told us that understaffing was the major reason for the crisis the system faced during the pandemic.

“Time and time again, Mr Morrison and his ministers were warned of the impending crisis in aged care and despite the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, have still done nothing to address the chronic understaffing at the root of so much of the suffering in privately-run nursing homes.

Butler said most concerning for the ANMF – and indeed the whole community – is the number of aged care staff who reported that they will leave their jobs, within the next one to five years.

“That’s years upon years of experience just walking out the door,” she said.

“Lack of effective recruitment and retention of nurses and qualified care-workers will only put further strain on a system at breaking point and will lead to more suffering and neglect.

“The survey shows us that the staff remaining in aged care only do so for the love and respect of the people they care for, but their wages and conditions do not justify the risks and pressure they experience every time they go to work. It’s unsustainable.

“When we asked our members how the Morrison Government can fix aged care, they had a simple, common-sense solution: more qualified staff. Surely, the Government has to listen.”

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