The requirements of working in aged care
Research from the Royal Commission shows that the number of older people needing care is predicted to rise considerably over the coming decades, meaning the aged care workforce will need to expand to meet these increasing care needs.
As well as the booming career prospects, working in aged care and making a genuine difference to the lives of older Australians can be a deeply rewarding and fulfilling career choice.
If you’re considering a career in this growing industry, here’s a comprehensive guide to and what qualifications you’ll need to get started on the path to your ideal job.
What qualifications do you need to work in aged care?
Qualifications vary between aged care roles and the skills required to perform certain tasks, but there are some mandatory certificates you’ll need to obtain before you can start applying for your aged care positions. For example, all aged care workers must obtain a National Police Certificate and a Provide First Aid Certificate is a good additional skill to have to prepare you for your future role.
Another basic requirement for those looking to work in the industry is the Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing). This course combines both academic learning as well as practical experience in an aged care placement, giving you a well-rounded introduction to what a career in aged care could look like.
Working in aged care requirements: carer and nursing roles
Personal Care Assistant (PCA)
Becoming a personal care assistant (PCA), also known as an assistant in nursing (AIN), is often the first step on the path to reaching career as a fully qualified nurse.
For this role, you will need to complete a Certificate III Individual Support (Ageing). Although you don’t require a bachelor degree to take on an PCA position, if you are enrolled on an undergraduate program in Nursing you could take on a PCA position, enabling you to earn while you learn whilst gaining valuable first-hand experience working as a carer in a nursing home.
Day-to-day duties of a PCA in aged care could include:
- Supporting other health professionals within your aged care home
- Administering medication
- Assisting residents with day-to-day routines such as dining, mobility and personal hygiene
- Observing any changes in residents’ wellbeing and reporting to nursing staff
Enrolled Nurse (EN)
To become an enrolled nurse (EN), you’ll need to complete a Diploma of Nursing. This consists of a two-year qualification which provides an in-depth understanding of how to deliver clinical nursing care. In order to apply for this qualification, candidates must have completed a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing), as well as a Certificate IV in Preparation for Health and Nursing Studies.
Day-to-day duties of an Enrolled Nurse in aged care could include:
- Formulating and implementing personalised care plans
- Collecting and reporting on the health and wellbeing of residents
- Managing and delivering clinical care
- Providing physical and emotional support for resident and their families
Registered Nurse (RN)
Registered qualified nurses are officially recognised by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) as having advanced academic and practical knowledge of nursing in their chosen field.
In addition to the practical tasks performed by an EN, RN’s are responsible for more managerial duties and complex patient care planning.
Day-to-day duties of a Registered Nurse could include:
- Developing comprehensive care plans in consultation with the multidisciplinary team
- Ensuring clinical guidelines and protocol are always adhered to
- Maintaining a safe work environment for staff and residents
- Supervising and mentoring junior nursing staff
- Personal and professional development of staff through regular one-to-one meetings and organised training sessions
A common route into registered nursing is to complete a Bachelor’s degree consisting of three years’ full-time study alongside professional aged care placements. ENs looking to advance their career may also request official registration under the AHPRA once they have gained sufficient industry experience.
Working in aged care requirements: Lifestyle roles
An engaging lifestyle program plays an essential role in making sure residents’ can continue to enjoy the pastimes and therapeutic activities they did before their transition into aged care. The lifestyle team will liaise with nursing staff, families and residents to curate an activity program which encompasses the physical, emotional and cultural needs of the residents in their charge as well as helping to encourage residents to maintain social connections through group events.
“A career in aged care has been really fulfilling and as a Lifestyle Coordinator I’ve been able to experience so many new things,” says Priya, Lifestyle Coordinator at The Regent, a Japara aged care home in Mount Waverley. “I love being able to interact with residents and being able to implement new activities and schedules that allow for the constant improvement for quality of life, especially towards the end of life.
“I enjoy being able to work in team and being able to share new ideas and experiences with the residents and the staff. I always go home with a smile on my face knowing I made someone happy today. It’s always a blessing to provide emotional and social support to our elderly.”
In most cases, a Diploma of Leisure and Health or Certificate of IV in Leisure and Health is a desirable qualification to have under your belt when considering a lifestyle role in aged care, as these courses provide individuals with specialised knowledge you can apply to your daily role.
That said, each aged care facility is different, and you may not necessarily need a qualification to pursue a leisure and lifestyle role in aged care. What’s more, many employers will actively provide training and education opportunities for the right candidate.
Day-to-day duties of a Lifestyle worker in aged care could include:
- Creating a varied and engaging lifestyle program to support residents’ development through physical, mental and social stimulation.
- Setting up, overseeing and cleaning up after activities.
- Assisting/transporting residents to community events and outings.
- Creating newsletters and sharing stories about lifestyle events with families.
Working in aged care requirements: Admin, Support and Hospitality roles
If you’re not sure a clinical role is right for you, you may have other skills which are of great value within an aged care environment.
Loc, our Head Chef at Kingston Gardens, use to work in the restaurant industry in Melbourne before bringing his culinary skills into our aged care home. Now, he enjoys creating delicious and nutritional Vietnamese dishes for residents in the Springvale home.
“There should be no difference between eating a meal at home and mealtimes in aged care. I feed our residents as I would feed my own parents. With good, honest food made with only the freshest ingredients”, says Loc.
You can read his full story here.
Admin, support and hospitality roles in aged care include:
- Food and beverage services
- Housekeeping and cleaning
- Gardening and grounds maintenance
- Admin support and reception staff
Qualification and experience for these jobs vary greatly depending on but clinical qualifications are rarely required.
Personal skills in aged care
Whilst academic qualifications and training are industry essentials, working in aged care is more than just a job; you will be responsible for enriching the lives of those in your care, many of whom may feel physically or emotionally vulnerable.
Providing emotional support to individuals, making sure they feel safe and respected, and being someone to trust are equally as important as the clinical care you deliver.
Personal skills required to work in aged care include:
- Compassion: A kind and supporting nature is essential. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of the ones you are caring for and understand their individual needs.
- Attention to detail: This is an important skill when dealing with various resident medications, dietary requirements and personalised treatment plans.
- Patience: Residents living with dementia or with limited English skills may not always hear a conversation the first-time round. A calm and patient approach will help alleviate any concerns and put residents at ease.
- Physical stamina: Several hours on your feet, delivering medical equipment or medication around large care homes or assisting residents with mobility issues can be a long and tiring day.
- Strong communication skills: Being able to explain calmly and clearly to residents to ensure they feel safe and comfortable at all times.
How to apply for placement in aged care
A great way to get started is to create a list of all the aged care providers in your local area and find out the types of care they provide and the best option for you. For example, if are you interested in providing home care and visiting individuals in the community, you’ll likely need your own transport. On the other hand, if you’d prefer a fixed place of work, there may be several aged care facilities near you where you can work alongside residents living in a permanent aged care setting.
Many aged care facilities will run traineeships where you can earn while you learn and get a feel for your chosen role, such as Japara’s traineeship in the Morning Peninsula.
To check out available aged care work vacancies with Japara on our website, visit our Careers section, or if you have further questions, you can contact us via the Contact form on this website.