APNA Workforce Survey 2022 - Influencing policy and practice

By Danny Hills, APNA Monitoring and Evaluation Manager 

Source: APNA Primary Times Winter 2023 (Volume 23 Issue 1)

Nurses form the backbone of Australia’s primary health care (PHC) system and are fundamental to ensuring the health and wellbeing of the Australian population. Similarly, APNA’s Workforce Survey is fundamental in helping APNA lobby for changes to ensure that PHC nurses are valued, visible and respected for the work they do.  

The survey is exclusively focused on PHC nurses and provides data about the nursing workforce which, quite simply, can be found nowhere else. Not all nurses work in hospitals, but all nurses work on the frontline. The data from this survey is crucial to understanding and measuring the impact of the issues affecting PHC nurses across the country. 

So, it should not be surprising that decision-makers from across the country, including the Australian Government, Commonwealth and state departments of health, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Grattan Institute, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, and other key bodies interested in the health and wellbeing of Australians beat a path to APNA’s door to see what our data says.  

The data from the Workforce Survey informs policy decisions and, either directly or indirectly, determines the levels and type of funding and services required for PHC in Australia. One recent example of APNA’s Workforce Survey making a huge difference for members was with the recommendations from the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce Report. This report foreshadowed an increased role and full scope of practice for PHC nurses as part of a team-based multidisciplinary model of care for Australia’s PHC system. The Workforce Survey played a large role in this potentially excellent outcome.  


What did the survey tell us about PHC nursing in 2022? 

Over 4,500 PHC nurses commenced the 2022 survey, with around 3,500 providing key information about themselves and their work. This is a dramatic improvement (a boost of around 3.5 times) in responses from the previous year, which strengthens the value of the survey in the eyes of decision-makers. Thanks to all the nurses who took the time to participate! 

Over 4,500 PHC nurses participated in the 2022 survey, which is our largest response ever.  

Around 60% of respondents worked in general practice, historically the founding membership of APNA. However, participants came from across the spectrum of PHC nursing settings, including community health (6%), aged care (6%), school health (3%), Aboriginal health (2.7%), Primary Health Networks (2.2%) and correctional services (1.5%). 

Other survey highlights: 

  • Just over 68% of respondents were current APNA members and almost 12% were previous members. 

  • The age of survey participants ranged from 20 to 80 years, with a median (middle score) of 51 years. 

  • 97% of survey respondents were female. 

  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people comprised 5% of participants. 

  • The majority of survey participants were registered nurses (79%) or enrolled nurses (13%). 

  • Just over 65% of participants were experienced nurses skilled in PHC nursing, with 14.5% being experienced nurses new to PHC nursing. Almost 12% were managers of nurses (clinical or non-clinical) and 8.5% were recent graduates (less than 3 years’ experience) working in PHC nursing roles. 

  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of survey participants worked in a single place of employment as a PHC nurse. 

  • Just over three-quarters (76%) of respondents were permanent employees in their main or sole employment. 

  • Most survey participants reside in the most populous states and were located in 29 of the 31 Primary Health Network areas – this included in locations across metropolitan, regional, rural and remote locations. 


Much more data to come 

This initial summary of personal and professional survey data foreshadows a busy year of reports and stories we are planning to emphasise the central role that PHC nurses play in the health care system, and the burning issues that need addressing. We will make all stories, reports and data available to members, partners and stakeholders via newsletters and on the APNA website. 

APNA will soon release a series of two-page reports that focus on specific disciplines and locations of work. This will provide more in-depth insights into the breadth of findings coming from the rich data provided by survey participants. 

Other important findings, such as PHC nurses’ pay rates, education, scope of practice, and job satisfaction and wellbeing will be featured in additional reports. 


Are APNA Workforce Survey participants representative of all PHC nurses in Australia? 

Representativeness is an important issue for any survey. We go to Commonwealth data collections and analyses, which describe important characteristics of the national population of PHC nurses, for comparisons.  

In 2022, we had good responses from PHC nurses in all states and territories, across all age groups, and across all PHC networks, disciplines and settings in metropolitan, regional, rural and remote Australia. 

PHC nurses who were male, younger, enrolled nurses, working in Victoria and working in metropolitan settings were somewhat under-represented in our 2022 survey. Understanding this ‘bias’ (all surveys have a degree of bias) helps us to better analyse and interpret the APNA Workforce Survey results. 


Strengthening the APNA Workforce Survey 

We are currently establishing a new advisory board for the APNA Workforce Survey, comprising leading nursing and workforce researchers and policy-makers, to guide the strengthening of the APNA Workforce Survey and undertake more advanced statistical analyses of the data provided by PHC nurses. 

As a result, from 2023 we are expecting that the survey itself, and the survey results, will provide even more authoritative information than it provides now to governments and other policy and practice decision-makers, as a means of building on the legacy of positive change we have already established for PHC nurses in Australia. We look forward to you contributing to this important effort. 

Your voice matters more than ever. We want the annual APNA Workforce Survey to be the best it can be. APNA members and every member of the nearly 100,000-strong PHC nursing workforce can contribute to shaping PHC policy and service provision by becoming regular contributors to this high-value PHC nursing workforce data set. The 2023 APNA Workforce Survey will be open for participation in late 2023. Keep an eye on the APNA newsletter and website for more details to come. 

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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