Nursing staff play a vital role in ensuring the quality of care in acute, community and residential settings. As the older adult population increases, these services will come under increased demand thus placing greater importance on maintaining the supply of nurses in this role. Professor Lynn Chenoweth of the University of Technology, Sydney and the DCRC – Assessment and Better Care has researched the question of why nurses are attracted to this area and what factors keep them there.

A survey of nurses working in these dementia care areas was conducted by Professor Chenoweth, Associate Professor Yun-Hee Jeon and Associate Professor Victoria Traynor. The purpose was to find out the answers to these questions. They found that the main factors drawing people to this area of work was the rewarding nature of working in a close caring role. It was also found that nurses feel they are more likely to stay in a supportive working environment which provides flexible and family friendly workplace policies, equitable remuneration of work responsibilities and pressures, and opportunities for education and skill development. An essential factor was a working environment that allowed and encouraged staff to contribute to care decisions to meet the needs of patients. Reducing the importance of nursing staff's role in patient care was a critical factor that would encourage nursing staff to leave the area.

The research team’s work suggests that to improve nurse retention and attract more staff to the area improvements should focus on:

  • System change through a culture of openness and respect that facilitates communication between staff and administration
  • A flatter hierarchy offering more discretion for qualified nurses
  • More staff for complex and acute patients
  • Improved nurse leadership, and;
  • Novel education and skill development for nursing staff.

Implications for knowledge translation

Before this study was conducted, there was a small amount of Australian research explaining why nursing staff leave dementia and aged care, but not on why they are attracted to this area of nursing or why they stay. This study not only sheds light on an area of dementia care that has escaped research focus, but also provides advice on how to best use this research to improve the supply of services that will be in great demand in years to come.



Other stories from Dementia Research News - January 2012

Retaining Nurses in Dementia Care

People Living with Dementia and Pain

Biomarker Review Published/What is Knowledge Translation?

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