Royal Commission into Aged Care: Nurse has her say

SECTOR IN CRISIS: Nurse says if the royal commission is going to investigate staff abusing residents, it should look at residents abusing staff "because that happens more often". Photo: FILE
SECTOR IN CRISIS: Nurse says if the royal commission is going to investigate staff abusing residents, it should look at residents abusing staff "because that happens more often". Photo: FILE

SHE has been subject to inappropriate touching, assault and been pushed up against a wall and threatened - welcome to the aged care sector.

While much of the focus since Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has been on mistreatment of the elderly, one nurse says just as much focus should be given to abuse of staff.

This Central West nurse, who asked not to be named for fear of losing her job, says if she worked in any other industry that the abuse would not be tolerated – action would be swift and offender/s would be targeted with police action.

The first thing this nurse wanted to make clear was that she loves her job, every day brings something new and she loves the opportunity of being able to assist those most vulnerable in society.

But, in her eight years in the industry she has also been left frightened, assaulted, scratched and scarred and claims that nothing was done by management when the abuse was reported.

“There’s a few male residents I’ve come across who think it’s OK to be sexually inappropriate towards female staff,” she said.

There’s a few male residents I’ve come across who think it’s OK to be sexually inappropriate towards female staff.

“They will grab them on the bottom, boob or ask them to hop into bed with them, when staff are assisting them back to bed for the night.

“Then there’s the residents, male and female, who can turn on the nurses, and a lot of the time they don’t have dementia.

“Staff get used as punching bags, hit, kicked, scratched, hair pulled and biting are just some of the things. All this while there staff are either assisting them into bed, showering them or answering their buzzer.”

In her experience of working at two separate aged care facilities, this nurse believes management’s motto is – the resident is always right.

“When staff go to management, they are either moved to a different section away from the resident or told to suck it up,” she said.

“Very rarely will management actually go and speak with the resident and usually it’s after they’ve been reported several times.

When staff go to management, they are either moved to a different section away from the resident or told to suck it up.

“If it was anywhere else they would be charged, even in hospitals they would be charged.”

A recent “bad day” at work involved her attending to one male resident as he tried to get out of bed while a second male resident stood behind her and tried to hit her in the head.

”It rattled me. He really rattled me because it was from behind. I never saw it coming,” the nurse said.

She said some attacks were from residents who have dementia, while others are from those more capable.

“I forgive dementia patients more because they have no clue and they regress back into something that’s happened [in the past],” she said.

The nurse said she was surprised a royal commission was not called years ago following the Quakers Hill aged care fire which killed 11 elderly residents and also various cases over medicine overdoses.

If they’re going to look at staff abusing residents, they should look at residents abusing staff because that happens more often.

However, with the royal commission now called, she has urged commissioners to also investigate the abuse that staff suffer on a regular basis while trying to do their job.

“If they’re going to look at staff abusing residents, they should look at residents abusing staff because that happens more often,” she said.

Looking towards the future, this nurse said there were many things she loved about her role and would miss if she left the industry.

“The majority of the residents are fantastic and will always be polite, friendly and ask about your family or how your going,” she said.

“The worst residents are the ones that think it’s OK to verbally abuse you constantly – sometimes it’s because you didn’t hear what was asked other times it’s just because you remind them of someone they don’t like, or they’re unhappy about being in the home.”