Top marks for primary health care student nurse program

Media Release 19 May 2022 


It’s official - nine out of every ten PHC nurse supervisors who participated in APNA’s Student Nurse Placement Program (SNPP) said that they would be happy to supervise student nurses again, according to new national data.  

In addition, ten out of every ten primary health care (PHC) student nurses who participated in the SNPP said the program met or exceeded their expectations. 

Preliminary results from the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association’s (APNA) survey of student nurses and PHC nurse supervisors who completed the SNPP found: 

  • Nine out of ten (93.3%) of nurse supervisors said they would be happy to supervise students again  

  • More than nine out of ten (90.9%) student nurses participating in APNA’s SNPP program were competent or very competent, according to nurse supervisors  

  • More than eight out of ten (84.6%) student nurses said they had a very positive experience and learned a lot from their APNA student placement.  

  • Almost eight out of ten (76.9%) student nurses said the overall organisation of the SNPP program was excellent 

  • Seven out of ten (69%) student nurses said their SNPP experience exceeded expectations, while three out of ten (31%) said it met expectations 

Nurse supervisors were very supportive of the SNPP program. Feedback included: 

  • "Was great to express how important primary care is and why it’s so beneficial to be a great primary health care nurse" 

  • "Student's engaged and took initiative in asking questions, getting hands on and seeking to identify opportunities where they could make the most out of their placements" 

  •  "Seeing a student who has minimal clinical experience gain confidence and proficiency, and feel they have made a good choice of profession" 

  • "great opportunity to educate and train students. Nurses have a passion to do this. Great way to employ new staff" 

  • "The ability to learn from your students, they also teach us. Learning new skills in mentoring students. Seeing the confidence grow as the placement progresses. Seeing the student gain an understanding of what a primary health care nurse role is" 

  • "It's great to see student nurses get exposure to primary health care nursing." 

  •  "Seeing the growth in confidence and showing students the possibilities in a different area of nursing they thought they would never enjoy." 

With an urgent need to manage increasing rates of chronic disease, an ageing population, and a rapidly-ageing primary health care nurse workforce1, Australia desperately needs more primary health care nurses to enter the workforce before the current generation retires and cannot pass on its skills. 

Most nurses start their career in a hospital. Historically, it was difficult for universities and tertiary education providers to arrange placements for student nurses in primary health care. However, the APNA Student Nurse Placement Program provides student nurses with a foot in the door to a career in vibrant primary health care settings such as general practice or community health to perform supervised activities. 

The placements allow students to experience the role of a primary health care nurse, in a small ratio environment, usually 1:1. 

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

Advantages of joining the APNA Student Nurse Placement Program include: 

  • Workplaces are paid for being involved in the project 

  • Nurse supervisors are supported throughout the placement 

  • Workplaces can build a pipeline of prospective employees 

  • Two- to three-week placement windows available throughout the year 

  • Education and professional development for nurse supervisors 

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.  

There are already 108 Victorian and 32 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 also 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.  

Placing more student nurses in primary health care settings to carry out supervised learning and skills training would also support higher rates of screening for chronic disease which is forecast to increase due to COVID-19. 

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 KEN GRIFFIN, APNA CEO 

“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.”    

 

<ENDS> 

 

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

 

Fact sheet – Preliminary results from APNA’s Student Nurse Placement Program 2022 survey 

Nurse supervisor responses 

Q: How was your overall experience as a supervisor? 

Options 

Response(%) 

I love it! I'd be happy to supervise students again 

60.0% 

It was good, I enjoyed it and will supervise more students 

33.3% 

It was a lot of work, I'd like to take a break 

6.7% 

 

Q. How competent was the student for their respective year level's scope of practice? 

Options 

Response(%) 

Very competent, the student was very switched on and  
understood everything they needed to for their year level's scope of practice 

36.4% 

Good level of competence, the student knew most of the  
information but needed some prompting to express their understanding for their year level's scope of practice 

54.5% 

Reasonable competence, but needed more attention and  
guidance to be competent at their year level's scope of practice 

9.1% 

Falling behind, the student needed more support to be at the appropriate  competence for their year level's scope of practice 

0.0% 

The student was not competent and did not pass the assessment standards for their year level's scope of practice 

0.0% 

 

Student nurse responses: 

Q: How did your expectations for your primary health care placement compare to your experience? 

Options 

Response(%) 

My placement experience exceeded my expectations 

69.2% 

My placement experience met my expectations  

30.8% 

 

Q: Overall, did you have a positive experience at your placement? 

Options 

Response(%) 

Yes! I had a very positive experience on placement!   I learned so much from my supervisor. 

84.6% 

Yes, I had a positive experience but I preferred hospital  placements 

7.7% 

Yes, I had a positive experience but didn't learn as much as I thought I would 

7.7% 

No, I didn't have a positive experience. I didn't learn as much as I thought I would 

0.0% 

No, I did not have a positive experience. I clashed with my supervisor.  

0.0% 

No, I did not have a positive experience. I struggled with the tasks allocated to me. 

0.0% 

 

Q: How was the overall organisational process of your placement? 

Options 

Response(%) 

Excellent 

77% 

Good 

23% 

Okay 

0% 

Not good 

0% 

 

ABOUT APNA’S SNPP SURVEY 

APNA surveyed 210 PHC nurse supervisors and student nurses who participated in APNA’s Student Nurse Placement program. Students attended placements in primary health care settings including general practice, aged care and specialist surgical centres.  Students participated in the placement program from July 2021 - Feb 2022 and were surveyed between 14-27 April 2022. Nurse supervisors took part in the placement program from September 2020 and continue to participate. They were surveyed between 29 March - 14 April 2022. 

The Australian Primary Health Care 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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