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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 36(1)

Stabilising the aged care workforce: an analysis of worker retention and intention

Anna L. Howe A , Debra S. King B , Julie M. Ellis C D , Yvonne D. Wells E F , Zhang Wei B and Karen A. Teshuva E

A 90 Grayson Street, Hackett, ACT 2602, Australia. Email: anna.howe@bigpond.com
B National Institute of Labour Studies, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia. Email: deb.king@flinders.edu.au; zhang.wei@flinders.edu.au
C School of Nursing and Midwifery, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Vic. 3086, Australia. Email: j.ellis@latrobe.edu.au
D Aged Care Services Australia Group Pty Ltd, 101 Punt Road, Windsor, Vic. 3181, Australia.
E Australian Institute of Primary Care and Ageing, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Vic. 3086, Australia. Email: k.teshuva@latrobe.edu.au
F Corresponding author. Email: y.wells@latrobe.edu.au

Australian Health Review 36(1) 83-91 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH11009
Submitted: 11 February 2011  Accepted: 20 June 2011   Published: 24 February 2012

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Concerns about the capacity of the aged care industry to attract and retain a workforce with the skills required to deliver high quality care are widespread, but poor conceptualisation of the problem can result in strategies to address turnover being poorly targeted. A census of residential and community aged care services conducted by the National Institute of Labour Studies (NILS) in 2007 provided a comprehensive empirical account of the workforce, and estimated turnover on the basis of retention: that is, the proportion of the workforce who had been in their job for 1 year or less. This paper adds the dimension of intention: that is, workers’ expectations as to whether in 1 year’s time, they would still be working in the same aged care service. The dual driver model that takes both retention and intention into account was applied in further analysis of the 2007 NILS data. Investigation of relationships between workforce instability and 13 variables covering worker attributes, organisational attributes and structural attributes of the industry demonstrated the usefulness of the dual driver model for reconceptualising and analysing stability and, in turn, refining strategies to address turnover.

What is known about the topic? Widespread concerns about turnover in the aged care workforce are based on estimates of 25% turnover per annum in both residential and community care workforces reported by NILS in 2007. This rate is low compared to US reports averaging ~50%.

What does this paper add? Application of the dual-driver model to the analysis of 13 variables covering worker, organisational and structural attributes clarifies the nature of instability and shows that drivers affecting retention and workers’ intentions to stay or leave the job operate differently in the residential and community care workforces.

What are the implications for practitioners? Those involved in workforce management and policy development in aged care should give more attention to identifying and realising workers’ intentions to stay, addressing factors affecting retention, and developing more refined strategies to address instability rather than focusing primarily on recruitment.


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