The importance of prioritising mental health in the healthcare sector, particularly among aged care nurses, cannot be overstated. Recent surveys have highlighted alarming statistics, revealing the widespread prevalence of burnout, depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation among this much-needed workforce.

According to a study published in PubMed, a staggering 65.1% of aged care nurses reported experiencing emotional exhaustion indicative of moderate to severe burnout. Additionally, symptoms of clinically significant depression were reported by 22.5%, and anxiety by 20.4%.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) has, and continues, to tirelessly advocate for much needed reform in the aged care sector. We have been successful in achieving unprecedented progress in key areas impacting on mental health including fair wages and workload management by staffing ratios. This includes the requirement to ensure at least one Registered Nurses is onsite and on duty at all times at each aged care facility, mandated care minutes and the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruling on the Work Value Case which recommended a significant award rate wage rise to Personal Care Workers (PCWs).

"While we have achieved much, there remains much more to be done with ANMF continuing our advocacy in this area including ensuring Enrolled Nurses are recognised for the valuable role they perform, including by recognising them as part of  the staffing skill mix and by pursuing a substantial wage claim for nurses." said Adj Assoc Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM

"While we continue our important work with and for members in these areas, those working in the sector need as much support as possible. While the emotional rewards can be present, there is no doubt that the work is also emotionally and physically challenging and providing support, in addition to resolving the issues of appropriate pay and conditions are crucial to genuine sustainable employment in the sector." said Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.

Further to these concerning findings, initiatives aimed at addressing the mental health needs of aged care nurses are more crucial than ever. So much so, that this year's International Nurses Day, themed ‘Our Nurses. Our Future. The economic power of care’ underscores the importance of strategic investments in nursing to yield significant economic and societal benefits.

Recognising the pressing need to support the mental wellbeing of aged care nurses, Altaira— through their important partnership with Healthcare Heartbeat—have provided support for new nurses participating in The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) Aged Care Transition Professional Program, which launched during April 2024.

This initiative equipped nearly three dozen nurses entering the aged care workforce with the tools and strategies necessary to safeguard their mental health amidst the challenges of their profession.

Altaira's collaboration with Healthcare Heartbeat, now in its third year, represents a commendable effort to address the root causes of burnout and psychological distress among aged care nurses. By providing tailored support and resources, including the Rest, Renew, Reflect Mental Fitness program, wellbeing booster sessions, workbooks, and meal vouchers, this partnership aims to empower nurses to prioritise self-care and resilience.

In a healthcare landscape marked by escalating pressures and challenges, initiatives like Healthcare Heartbeat provide a lifeline for nurses grappling with burnout, stress, and emotional exhaustion.

The mental fitness program offered to a cohort of nurses emphasised practical techniques that can be implemented in real-time, even amidst the demands of a nursing shift. From cultivating a positive mindset and managing stress to promoting healthy lifestyle habits and conserving energy, these nurses were equipped with the tools to enhance and sustain their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.

‘This is an incredible opportunity for this group of nurses to learn and implement fundamental wellbeing skills and techniques that will aid not only in the longevity of their career but also in a more enjoyable and sustainable one’. Adjunct Associate Professor, Elizabeth Dabars, AM, CEO/Secretary, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch).

Participants explored cognitive techniques for enhanced focus, decision-making, and managing mental load, plus developed emotional intelligence to respond effectively, manage stress, and foster positivity. All whilst establishing habits to maintain momentum, bounce back from setbacks, and set healthy boundaries.

Jelena Giro, Director of Altaira, stated that they are committed to supporting nurses not only in their professional endeavours but also in their overall wellbeing. Altaira's holistic approach extends beyond business interests, encompassing a genuine concern for their candidates' mental health and welfare.

As ‘IND 2024 aims to reshape perceptions, demonstrating how strategic investment in nursing can bring considerable economic and societal benefits,’ investing in the mental health of aged care nurses, businesses, and individuals alike can contribute to a healthier, more resilient workforce and ultimately, enhance the quality of care provided to our aging population. Something that Altaira are always at the forefront of.

‘Our healthcare workers commit wholeheartedly to the welfare of others, often at the detriment of their health and family's wellbeing.

Together, through collaborative efforts such as this partnership and unwavering commitment, we can create a healthier, more sustainable future for aged care nurses and the patients they serve,’ Jelena explained.

If you would like to learn more about Altaira’s Mental Fitness Grants to Aged Care Nurses, please visit: Apply for an Altaira Wellness Grant! - Altaira Services or email [email protected].

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