West Australian nurses are Australia’s most underutilised - survey

National primary health care nursing conference opening in Perth today 

Media Release 28 July 2023 

Western Australia’s primary health care (PHC) nurses are the most underutilised in Australia, according to a national survey of Australia’s PHC nursing workforce. 

The survey findings have been released on the same day that hundreds of PHC nurses have arrived in Perth from across the country to attend the Australian Primary Health Care Nurse Association (APNA) Festival of Nursing three-day national conference. 

APNA’s 2022 Workforce Survey showed that more than one third (36%) of all PHC nurses working in Western Australia are not being utilised most of the time. This is more than any other state* (but equal with South Australia) and compares with a national underutilisation rate of 32%.  

WA’s nation-leading PHC nurse underutilisation rate is despite the Albanese Government needing an additional 14,000 nurses to meet its commitment for a registered nurse available 24/7 in every residential aged care facility by July 2023.  The Australian Department of Health and Aged Care also predicts a shortage of 85,000 nurses by 2025 and 123,000 nurses in Australia by 2030 

PHC nurses (including aged care nurses) account for around one in seven of the 640,000 registered health professionals in Australia. APNA President Karen Booth said that given Western Australia’s ageing population, and subsequent rise in chronic disease prevalence, it is critical that West Australian nurses be empowered to work to meet the state’s healthcare needs.   

“Despite the nurse shortage currently affecting general practice and other non-hospital settings, in excess of one third of all primary health care nurses in Western Australia are not being used to their full potential,” Ms Booth said.  

“This waste of nursing skill, knowledge, and enthusiasm occurs at all stages in a nurse’s career, regardless of their experience. This underutilisation of nurse skills represents a missed opportunity for the Western Australian health system, patients, and employers.”  

“Western Australia’s health system can’t afford to have highly skilled, experienced and motivated PHC nurses sitting underutilised when there is so much more they could be doing. Nurses care can include cardiovascular education, vaccinations, wound care, and preventative health approaches such as primary health care screening and advising people on self-care to keep them well,” Ms Booth said.  

Ms Booth is in Perth, along with hundreds of PHC nurses from across the country, for APNA’s three-day Festival of Nursing 2023, Australia’s largest conference for the country’s 96,000 PHC nurses. 

The Festival of Nursing 2023 features well-renowned speakers, interactive workshops, and engaging discussions that will provide valuable insights into the latest developments and changes in the nursing field. Speakers will discuss topics such as patient-centred care, the use of technology in nursing, the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in healthcare and a vast range of clinical topics. 

Speakers include APNA President Karen Booth, University of Sydney Professor Julie Leask, Wounds Australia Chair Hayley Ryan, Purple House CEO Sarah Brown AM, Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC Board Chair Sherri Kensall, and WA Primary Health Alliance CEO Leanne Durrington. 

The winners of the prestigious APNA President’s Award and the Rosemary Bryant Award will also be announced at the conference today. 




WHEN: 28-29 JULY 2023  

CONTACT: PLEASE CONTACT MEDIA MANAGER NICK BUCHAN ON 03 9322 9540 OR AT nick.buchan@apna.asn.aunick.buchan@apna.asn.au 

  • Media are advised to arrive no later than 8.40am on Friday 28 July for the best interview and photo opportunities at the conference’s opening plenary session  

  • Media are welcome to attend all PUBLIC conference sessions on Friday or Saturday and interview all speakers. Photographs and filming are welcomed.  

  • APNA will have a professional photographer on site who will take photographs of the proceedings; these images will be available for media use upon request. 

  • APNA will also have B-Roll footage from the practical elements of the Thursday professional development courses (life support, wound care) available for media to use 



About APNA’s 2022 Workforce Survey 

The 2022 APNA Workforce Survey was conducted by the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA). It is the only national survey focusing exclusively on the nearly 100,000 nurses who work in primary health care in Australia. The survey recorded ~4000 responses, the biggest response in the 15-year history of the survey. 

  • *Percentage of PHC nurses not utilised often or most of the time 

    • Western Australia: 36% 
    • South Australia: 36% 

    • New South Wales: 34% 

    • Queensland: 34% 

    • National: 32% 

    • ACT: 30% 

    • Victoria 30% 

    • Tasmania: 25% 

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.

© Copyright 2024 Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA). All rights reserved. MRM by Bond Software.


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