Research Shows What Residential Aged Care Can Learn from Community Care Workers

Job satisfaction is a big contributor to an organisation’s staff turnover. It’s simple – if the staff have low job satisfaction, then they are more likely to leave their job and pursue other options.

Keeping staff is important, especially in the aged care sector where staff turnover can be high, funding is low and there is a low staff ratio.

New research by Griffith University compared community care workers to carers who worked in residential aged care.

Overall the study found that both groups had a level of job satisfaction, however, community care workers were more satisfied with their work, job supervision and colleagues in comparison to those working in residential aged care.

There are a number of reasons why this may be the case, and much that residential aged care could learn from and apply to their existing environment.

Increased autonomy and improving supervision on the floor were some of the suggested changes that could be implemented to residential aged care – as community workers showed that they were more satisfied with those aspects of their job.

The analysis found that while community workers do have to check their rosters with management regularly before doing their daily tasks, a large part of their work in the community is done autonomously.

The head researchers, Katrina Radford and Ellen Meissner, said the findings that home care workers were more satisfied was an interesting one since most of the time they work alone and at a distance from their supervisors and other workers.

However, there is also more support for home care workers, where they can simply call a supervisor on the phone whenever they need – showing that communication and access to support are key practices.

Published in the Australasian Journal on Ageing, the study only use a small sample of 227 aged care workers across four aged care organisations, however it showed similar results to other previous findings.

The 2016 Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey, that was only released last March, showed that community care workers had more overall job satisfaction than residential nurses or aged care workers.

That survey showed that though community care workers were the least satisfied with their income, they were considerably happier than nurses and carers with the support they receive from their team and supervisors.

It is interesting that the highest survey scores are found for ‘the work itself’, the ‘hours worked’ and the ‘flexibility to balance work and non-work commitments’, all of which can be used as, at least partially, as the explanation for the high retention of the home care and home support sector.

In the Griffith research, it was suggested that there is great importance and need in better training for leadership skills in the middle management in aged care organisation.

The suggestion that there are practices in community care that could be utilised to improve aged care workers job satisfaction, and desire to stay at the job, is something the aged care sector should seriously consider.