Nurses need a fair go for a healthier Australia

Media Release: 12 May 2020

While they’ve been lauded for their work during COVID-19, many of Australia’s primary health care nurses say they are being prevented from doing even more to keep the nation healthy.

That's one of the key findings of a workforce survey released on International Nurses Day today by the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA). More than 1,600 nurses from general practices and other community health settings responded to the survey which found:

  • 45% feel that often or most of the time their skills aren’t being fully used
  • That’s despite 81% being highly experienced, with an average 21 years in nursing
  • 30% of nurses who suggested a greater role based on their training and qualifications had the request refused by their employer
  • Underscoring the fact that many nurses feel overlooked in the workplace, more than half reported not having had a formal job appraisal in the past two years

APNA President Karen Booth says the findings represent a significant lost opportunity for the Australian health system.

“Primary health care nurses are ready, willing and able to make a difference. They must be empowered to work to their full potential as Australia faces the twin challenges of an ageing population and rising rates of chronic disease beyond COVID-19.

“It’s worth reflecting on International Nurses Day, that nurses are rated by the Australian community as the most trusted and respected health professionals. Nurses are accessible, caring and nurturing. They are trained to make key decisions that affect the recovery and continued wellness of patients. So, what’s the hold-up?

“Nurses not only need the support of their employer but the system has to change too,” Ms Booth says, pointing out that the main reason given for refusing an extension of the nurse role was no financial incentive for the employer under Medicare.

“We need flexible funding models that make the most of everyone in the primary health team. This will enable better care for patients and prevent serious illness from developing. Paying for episodic care dependent on face-to-face, come-to-the-doctor-when-you-are-sick or in-crisis visits, is not a sustainable model for complex care.       

“We need predictability and assured funding that supports proactive, preventive, managed care to keep people well and supported in their community, avoiding unnecessary hospitalisations.”

The APNA Workforce Survey found that nurses were particularly interested in doing more chronic disease management and education with patients. Overall, their greatest motivator was patient contact and care.

See APNA Workforce Survey summary Nurses: Ready, Willing and Able to do More

See the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s first profile of primary health care nurses, also released today. This was informed by APNA survey and membership data. Read the AIHW report

Media inquiries: Tony Wells, 0417 627 916

The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

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