20 June 2023
What is the role of a Registered Nurse in Aged Care?
11 min read
Aged Care nursing was once considered the area of nursing that older nurses went into when they wanted to slow down or reduce their workload. This is no longer the case. The area of aged care is now rapidly changing, having undergone major reform as the government repositions services and resources to respond to existing and emerging demands. Registered Nurses in aged care need to be skilled across a multitude of areas and as such, this is attracting much younger nurses to work in residential aged care homes. New models of care have enabled greater access and delivery of services whilst maintaining high levels of quality and safety. Plus, evidence-based person-centered-care have helped to improve services and levels of care.
What are the benefits of working in aged care?
Working in aged care is considered by many to be one of the most rewarding career paths in the healthcare sector. Here are a few reasons why registered nurses love working in aged care.
You get to make a real difference
Aged care is where all your skill sets will shine - from wound care, medication management, leadership, acute care, rehabilitation, care planning and communication skills. There are no skills you won't use – and the residents truly appreciate you.
You will feel appreciated
You are more than just a number, compared to the hospital system anyway. You will be valued for what you do. A shared smile or explaining what the blue pills are for, having a laugh with an ex digger or telling a relative that it's all going to be ok. You may be delivering palliative care in the most dignified way. You are the world to those people. The families will remember you for a lifetime.
You will be taught leadership skills
RN's are not taught these skills at university - and this is where you can hone them. You will manage people and use abilities you never knew you had. You can be the kind of leader that inspires!
It's more family-friendly than hospitals
Aged care is often short of skilled RN's, so when you arrive they look after you. Often there are shifts to suit all lifestyles and because skilled RN's can be hard to source, you will feel appreciated and often your work/life balance will be respected as they are keen to retain you long term.
You will network with health professionals every day
And they will count on you to provide them with accurate and detailed information to provide the best resident outcomes. You will feel valued and like an integral part of the team, an absolute equal.
You will bond with others and form strong friendships
There are so many people to meet in aged care, and it literally feels like a big family. From carers to kitchen team, management, residents and their families.
You will be an advocate for the Aged
The things you can do by modelling person-centered care and showing how skilled aged care nursing really is. The difference you make to the lives of an often forgotten demographic is enormous.
Huge demand, job growth and security
Whilst all nursing jobs are in demand, there is a high demand for RN’s in aged care. Giving you job security, with jobs expected to continue to grow as the population ages.
What is a registered nurse in aged care?
A Registered Nurse (RN) in Aged Care has typically undertaken a minimum of a three-year degree at university and is a member of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Many of our RN’s also have an Aged Care post graduate education. This is a year long course and involves studying:
- Assessing and Managing Adult Pain
- Assessment of the Older Person
- Clinical Issues in the Care of the Older Person
- Continence Management
- Dementia Care
- Healthy Ageing
- Parkinson’s Care
- Principles of Infection Control
- Principles of Palliative Care Nursing
- Wound Management
Additionally, or alternatively to the above course, many nurses will choose to specialise in one particular area, such as Dementia Care, Pain, Chronic and Palliative Care, Gerontological Nursing, Parkinson’s or Neurological Nursing. You can also study a Master of Nursing and become a Nurse Practitioner.
The key responsibilities of an RN include:
Registered Nursing responsibilities include (but are not limited to)
- Undertake comprehensive resident assessment
- Develop a nursing care plan in consultation with the multidisciplinary team and evaluate the outcome
- Undertake holistic care including emotional, psychological and spiritual support
- Administer medications and evaluate the outcome
- Operate in a critical and complex environment
- Works as a resident advocate, supervise and mentor EN’s and junior RN’s
- Work in consultation with the multidisciplinary team for the better outcome of the resident
- Participate and contribute to occupational health and safety activities to ensure a safe work environment for residents, family and colleagues. Keeping a safe and clean work environment
- Participate in regular personal and professional development
- Monitoring the residents’ condition and assessing their needs to provide the best possible care and advice.
- Observing and interpreting the resident’s symptoms and communicating them to their doctors.
- Collaborating with doctors and nurses to devise individualized care plans for residents.
Nursing in Aged Care has many opportunities, from the role on the floor, working with residents, to working as the Regional Aged Care Manager or Care Director.
As the Regional Aged Care Manager:
Technically, not all Regional Aged Care Managers are Registered Nurses, however many of them have this as their background. The Regional Aged Care Manager is responsible for the effective management of residents, ensuring the delivery of premium resident-centred and clinical care, maintenance of both clinical and non-clinical standards, creating a positive work environment that promotes employee productivity and drives operational efficiency within the home. As a positive leader, the Regional Aged Care Manager develops strong internal and external relationships, drives a culture of safety leadership, coaches and motivates employees to foster development and strives for continuous process improvement to enrich the lives of Estia Health residents. The Regional Aged Care Manager is responsible for all operational aspects of the home, which requires strong business acumen. The role requires you to be a good communicator, always available, with patience and a compassionate ear to support residents and their families at an incredibly important time in their lives.
As the Care Director:
The Care Director is responsible for supporting the Executive Director with the management of the home specifically surrounding the provision of advanced clinical and holistic care of residents. Care managers oversee the care program for residents and lead a team of aged care employees. Key responsibilities may include ensuring the delivery of high-quality care, supervising nursing and care team and meeting legislative and accreditation requirements. And all aspects of clinical delivery at the home to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of residents and the team is maintained.
What is the difference between an enrolled nurse and a registered nurse?
The scope of practice for an Enrolled nurse (EN) and Registered nurse are quite different. The main difference is the qualification including education preparation and experience. EN's complete a Diploma of Nursing, which is a two-year course, and RN's complete a Bachelor of Nursing, which is a three-year course.
An EN’s normal day consists of duties such as:
- Work under the direct / indirect supervision of an RN
- Perform holistic assessment including observation, physical examination and measurements, for example taking a client’s temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiration, blood sugar levels, etc.
- Report any changes in a resident’s condition to the RN and doctors
- Assist with personal hygiene tasks and activities of daily living such as showering, bathing, dressing, eating and general comfort
- Assist residents with rehab or exercise programs where applicable
- Plan, implement and evaluate nursing care plan in collaboration with RN and other health care team members to optimise patient outcome
- Assist with general first aid and emergencies
- Promote the safety of self and others in all aspects of nursing practice
- The RN has more responsibility than an EN. An RN’s duty includes the practical hands-on tasks like an EN but it also includes more complex resident care, problem solving, leadership, management roles, education and research.
- If you would like to read more about the role of the Enrolled Nurse, you can find it here on our blog.
The duties of a Registered Nurse are mentioned above.