Homegrown talent the answer to global nursing shortage

Media Release 1 August 2022 


A global shortage of more than 30 million nurses and midwives1 means Australia must focus on training local Primary Health Care (PHC) nurses rather than rely on overseas-trained nurses to fill the aged care workforce shortfall. 

The Albanese Government’s commitment for registered nurses available 24/7 in aged care facilities by July 2023 will require an additional 14,000 nurses, with Health Minister Mark Butler saying many will be sourced through migration2.  

However, a 2021 Federal Government scheme to import thousands of overseas health professionals to meet chronic nursing workforce shortages failed, with recent reports revealing that the scheme, intended to recruit 2000 health professionals, in fact recruited only 243

With an urgent need to manage increasing rates of chronic disease, an ageing population, and a rapidly-ageing primary health care nurse workforce4, Australia needs more locally trained primary health care nurses to enter the workforce before the current generation retires. 

APNA already runs successful Transition to Professional Practice programs helping employers to improve retention rates and provide support to graduate nurses new to a primary health care career. The APNA student placement program is part of a big picture view to build the workforce with a bottom-up approach and engaging nurses early and widening their career options. 

APNA’s Student Nurse Placement Program (SNPP) has already taken initial steps to address this need, working with universities and TAFEs to establish a sustainable pipeline of qualified primary health care nurses now to meet the health care needs of the future. The SNPP provides student nurses with a foot in the door to a career in primary health care settings including general practice, aged care, or community health to perform supervised activities. 

Preliminary data from the program reveals that the program is increasing interest and employment in the sector with: 

  • seven out of 10 (69%) nursing students considering primary health care as a career path following their placement.   

  • four out of 10 (38.5%) nursing students offered employment following their placement. 

Historically, it was difficult for universities and tertiary education providers to arrange placements for student nurses in primary health care. However, APNA’s SNPP is already allowing nursing students to play a vital role in primary health care settings while simultaneously accruing their essential clinical placement time under the supervision of experienced primary health care nurses.  

This simultaneously relieves pressure on overworked PHC nurses whilst enriching the student's skillset, and establishing a cohort of new, skilled, and experienced PHC nurses for the future. 

There are already 145 Victorian and 50 interstate organisations registered with APNA’s SNPP. The program is set to place more than 500 students in high quality placements with multiple primary health care providers this year alone.  The SNPP program includes clinics in Ballarat, Bairnsdale, Swan Hill, Portland, and Mildura, and facilitated student nurse placements in NSW, the ACT, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. 

Scaling up this program so that it can be coordinated nationally would provide a workforce pipeline of motivated and skilled nurses who could help alleviate the staffing crisis in aged care homes, general practice, and other primary health care settings across the country.  

APNA looks forward to working with governments, health departments, and universities and TAFEs across the country to ensure Australia has a large-enough workforce of PHC nurses to meet future needs for decades to come.  

 <ENDS> 

 

QUOTES FROM KAREN BOOTH, APNA PRESIDENT 

“Providing a pathway for local nurses, especially new graduates, into primary health care is a much better and more sustainable option than recruiting health professionals from overseas.  

“APNA already runs successful Transition to Professional Practice programs helping employers to improve retention rates and provide support to graduate nurses new to a primary health care career. The APNA student placement program builds on this by helping to build the workforce with a bottom up approach and engaging nurses early and widening their career options.” 

“Recent schemes have already shown that importing enough primary health care nurses to meet our future needs is not feasible. Australia simply must train more primary health care nurses, and programs such as APNA’s Student Nurse Placement Program are the way to go. 

“Australia’s experienced primary health care nurses want to pass on their decades of irreplaceable experience. Giving students the opportunity to experience primary health care is one of the best ways to ensure that this can happen. 

“Australia is at risk of not having enough suitably trained PHC nurses to staff aged care homes, general practices, and other primary health care settings in coming years. We need a sustainable pipeline of qualified primary health care nurses now to meet the health care needs of the future. 

“More nursing students must be given the chance to experience primary health care so that we can build a sustainable workforce.  Clinical placements provide an opportunity to enhance and shape a student’s attitudes and learning experiences. 

“Nursing placements are critical to establishing a future PHC nursing workforce. The Commonwealth Government needs to play its part by supporting a national nursing student placement scheme in primary health care.”    

 

References

1 www.thelancet.com Vol 399 June 4, 2022, p.2129 

2 https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/butler-promises-priority-legislation-to-mandate-aged-care-nurses-20220622-p5avmh.html 

3 https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jun/29/just-24-health-workers-helped-under-morrison-government-scheme-to-bring-2000-medics-to-australia 

4 Average age of a primary health care nurse is 49.5 years old, according to APNA’s 2021 Workforce survey 

 

Media enquiries: Nick Buchan, nick.buchan@apna.asn.au, 03 9332 9540 

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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