Nurses’ unions call for carer to resident ratios – but aged care staffing not just a numbers game

Nurses’ unions call for carer to resident ratios – but aged care staffing not just a numbers game 

The big news for us this week has been the Queensland Nurses Union’s campaign for a registered nurse be rostered on at all times and a carer to resident ratio introduced in our aged care homes. 

They argue that we have staffing ratios for childcare – so why not aged care? 

Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt has promised more “hands-on’’ training for aged care workers – welcome news for residents, families and staff – but the Government is unlikely to push for ratios. 


Staffing ratios are not easy to implement in aged care. Generally providers decide what staff they need on the floor based on the number of beds occupied and the care needs of residents. More residents with dementia or an increase in occupancy will see more nurses on the floor – fewer residents will see less. 

The Government is also aware the majority of providers are struggling to find enough staff to meet their current needs, particularly in rural and regional areas. 

We often hear stories of providers in country areas stalling new aged care beds or delaying opening new wings because of lack of staff. 

Forcing providers to stick to a staffing ratio could force some to close their doors or fail their accreditation – leaving them unable to take in new residents until they are re-accredited. 

Aged care to become one of our biggest employers 

The fact is aged care is tipped to be one of the most in-demand jobs over the next five years – but it’s also predicted to have the most vacancies thanks to an ageing workforce, lower salaries and demanding roles. 

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is also set to expand to over 475,000 clients, creating even more competition for care workers. 

Governments are doing more to encourage people to consider aged care as a career. The Victorian Government has just announced it will make a range of TAFE courses, including the Certificate IV in Ageing Support and Diploma of Nursing, free to drive up enrolments. 

Not-for-profit provider Royal Freemason’s Benevolent Institution has introduced a program for its workers to become registered nurses – offering workers the chance to progress their career. 

Helping workers upgrade their skills is an important step. But there needs to be a national plan for the aged care workforce – so we can ensure residents are being cared for and workers enjoy a rewarding and valued career too. 

Last year the Federal Government set up an Aged Care Workforce Taskforce to tackle this challenge. It’s due to report to Minister Wyatt on 30 June – we will be waiting to hear what they say.

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A special thanks to our contributors

Antonia Norris

Researcher and Contributor

Antonia has led the operations and growth of the and within the DCM Group in Australia and New Zealand for several years. This has included the research and creation agedcare101 in 2016, the creation of the DCM Institute and Te Ara Institute, the joint contribution of Care & Living with Mercer (CaLM) and the TV series, The Best 30 Years, screened on NINE nationally.



Caroline has a wealth of experience writing within the retirement and aged care sector and is a contributing journalist for the and agedcare101 blog and accompanying newsletters.

Ian Horswill


Ian is a journalist, writer and sub-editor for the aged care sector, working at The DCM Group. He writes for The Weekly Source, agedcare101, and the DCM Institute fortnightly newsletter Friday. Ian is in daily contact with CEOs of retirement living, land lease and the aged care operations and makes a new contact every week. He investigates media releases, LinkedIn and Facebook for a good source for ideas for stories.

Lauren Broomham

Retirement and Aged Care Journalist

Lauren is a journalist for, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

Jill Donaldson


Jill has been practicing as a clinical physiotherapist for 30 years. For the last 13 years she has worked solely in the Aged Care sector in more than 50 metropolitan and regional facilities. Jill has also toured care facilities in the US and Africa and is a passionate advocate for both the residents in aged care and the staff who care for them. She researches and writes for DCM Media.

Chris Baynes

DCM Media, agedcare101

Chris has been a journalist and publisher in the retirement village and aged care sectors for 11 years. He has visited over 250 retirement villages and 50 aged care facilities both within Australia and internationally. Chris is a regular speaker at industry conferences plus is a frequent radio commentator.

Annie Donaldson

Nurse and Carer

Annie has a long career in both nursing and the media. She has planned and co-ordinated the medical support from both international TV productions and major stadium events. In recent years she has been a primary family carer plus involved in structured carer support.