Registered nurses on duty 24/7 in residential aged care is a turning point in Australia’s reform agenda, but there is potentially a missed opportunity to deepen and extend the impact.
“RNs play a critical leadership role in any health setting, but especially so in aged care. The Royal Commission was strong on that point, as well as the need to embed palliative care in aged care,” Camilla Rowland, CEO, Palliative Care Australia said.
“PCA and our Member Organisations see an opportunity that builds capacity and care, in a timely and efficient way – while addressing significant workforce issues.
“We’ve put forward a plan that would see palliative care training delivered as part of the RNs 24/7 roll out.”
Twelve recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission deal with palliative care. Commissioners agreed that training for aged care workers was central to raising care standards.
“It starts with RNs as leaders of care teams but then extends to enrolled nurses, allied health professionals, and other care workers within an aged care home,” Ms Rowland says.
“Our three stage plan was delivered to the Health and Aged Care Ministers before the Budget and has been costed at $36 million over four years.
“By the end of 2025 we’d have 8,200 nurses trained in palliative care, supporting aged care residents and their families. We see this as an innovative, common-sense way to harness the existing workforce while addressing sector wide shortages.”
The level of palliative care training nurses currently receive varies, but what we do know is that around 53,000 people die in aged care each year, and most don’t receive adequate palliative care.
Too often palliative care is delivered in the final days of life, with increased training and awareness, more holistic, person centred care can be delivered much sooner.
“Palliative care is all about getting the most out of the life you have left – and that can start many months and years before someone dies - not only enriching a family’s end of life experience with their loved one but reducing costs to the health system through reduced hospitalisations and a better allocation of health services,” Ms Rowland says.
“We are hopeful that the human and economic benefits of our RN training initiative will be picked up by the Government in the May 2023 Budget and we can start to address the wider workforce issues at play.”