Aims and objectives: Through comparison of two studies undertaken three years apart the opinions of nurses working in aged care facilities in Queensland were determined. Results will support policy planning for the Queensland Nurses Union.
Background: An ageing population in Australia is placing increased demands on residential aged care facilities. In Queensland, the national situation is exacerbated by an influx of retirees from other states and territories. The ongoing problem of shortages of nurses in the workforce may be addressed by gaining further insight into the nurses' own views of their conditions and experiences.
Methods: One thousand nurses working in public and privately owned residential aged care facilities were surveyed by postal questionnaire in 2004. Results were compared with data collected in an identical study in 2001.
Results: Respondents offered their opinions on working hours and conditions, professional development and experiences in nursing. The predominately female aged care nursing workforce is ageing. Reported workplace violence has increased substantially since 2001. Some improvements are reported in staff numbers, skill mix and workplace policies. Nurses expressed very serious concerns about pay, workload, stress, physical and emotional demands and staff morale.
Conclusion: Working conditions for nurses in the residential aged care sector in Queensland must be addressed to retain the current nurses and to encourage new nurses to replace those that retire.
Relevance to clinical practice: The findings of this study provide information not only for the Queensland Nurses Union but also policy makers and nurse managers both nationally and internationally on areas that need to be addressed to maintain the required workforce within the aged care sector.